We’ve known for years that the food we put into our bodies plays a vital role in maintaining physical health, but did you know that diet and nutrition can also impact our mental state? We used to think that feel good chemicals, such as serotonin, simply resided in the brain. However, research has shown that these important neurotransmitters also live in the gut, and so the choices you make at mealtime can ultimately help – or hurt – your mood.
Beat the Blues: The Depression Diet
Sweet Potatoes: High in complex carbs, amino acids, fiber, and the blues-busting vitamin B6, sweet potatoes are nature’s anti-depressant. A lack of B6 has been linked with depression, so stock up on this super food if you want to boost your mood.
Leafy Greens: These superheroes of the garden are chock full of iron, magnesium, and B vitamins and a stellar treatment for depression. Swiss chard, kale, collards, beet greens, mustard greens, napa cabbage, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, parsley, and spinach are all great options.
Oats: If you want to incorporate foods that fight depression into your diet, it couldn’t get any easier than with oats. From a bowl of oh-so-comforting oatmeal to a mid-afternoon granola bar, oats can help boost your energy and get you through a stressful day.
Berries: Antioxidant-rich berries of all varieties – especially blueberries – can help to reduce stress and improve the brain fog so common in depression. Add them to cereal or smoothies, or just grab a handful on the run.
Avocadoes: The healthy fats in avocadoes help to maintain brain function and fight stress. Add this calming fruit to your diet and reap the benefits of a healthy dose B vitamins, vitamin E, beta-carotene, glutathione, and lutein.
Nuts: Because low levels of zinc may be tied to depression (and anxiety), get a hefty dose of this mineral by eating cashews on a daily basis. Walnuts are another great option as they contain mood-boosting omega-3s that help to lift symptoms of depression.
Foods That May Cause Depression
Just as eating certain foods can help alleviate depression, there are also foods that may actually make depression worse. Does your diet contain any of these culprits?
Processed Foods: Often made with refined sugar, flour, artificial colors and flavors, and a host of other icky things, processed foods may seem convenient in the moment but wreak havoc in the long run. If you’re pressed for time, hit the salad bar, invest in a crock pot, or make a huge pot of soup and freeze the leftovers instead of opting for instant, boxed, or frozen meals, or worse yet, the drive through.
Dairy: Cheese, milk, and other dairy products are not only hard on the digestive system, but they are also terrible for our mental state and have been linked to anger, anxiety, and depression. If you find you’re struggling with depression, ditch the dairy and instead opt for a clean, whole foods-based diet.
Caffeine: Although it affects everyone differently, caffeine often acts as a stimulant in the brain. The problem is that if you suffer from insomnia, caffeine may be partially to blame. A good night’s sleep helps the brain and body to heal, and so if you’re not catching enough ZZZs, your energy, not to mention your mood, will take a huge hit.
Alcohol: A glass of wine or a beer before bedtime can also impact sleep in a negative way. And though we may associate alcoholic beverages with relaxation, they are actually just a temporary band-aide because alcohol acts like a depressant in the brain. Instead stay hydrated with plenty of fresh water and caffeine-free herbal teas.
Contact Deepwater Counseling if you think you may be struggling with depression. We are here to help!