This post is not to be interpreted as a “cure” for depression. Depression is a complex, multi-factorial illness. Nutrition however, may a play a role in easing some of the symptoms. If you are experiencing depression, please be sure to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional.
1) Eat Protein at Each Meal
Foods like turkey, tuna and chicken contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin (feel good chemical). Include protein at each meal to keep blood sugar levels steady, energy levels high and hunger levels low. Good sources include poultry, fish, beans, grass-fed beef, and yogurt.
2) Increase Your Water Intake
Dehydration can affect mental status and mood. Fluid needs can vary depending on age, activity level, disease status and climate however a good rule of thumb is 0.5 oz per pound of body weight. Keep a water bottle on your desk or in your bag as a reminder to drink up!
3) Choose Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates may increase serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) in your brain. Choose foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal and whole grain sprouted breads. Limit sugary foods and beverages which can cause more cravings, crashes and inflammation in the body.
4) Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D receptors are located throughout your body, including your brain. Studies show a correlation between low vitamin D levels and depression. Increase safe sun exposure and include vitamin D-rich foods such as sardines, salmon, eggs and cod liver oil.
5) Include Probiotic-Rich Foods
The gut is responsible for delivering nutrients to all organs (including the brain) and for constraining harmful bacteria and molecules from the rest of the body. Poor gut health can lead to “leaky gut” which can allow toxins to cross into the blood stream and eventually into the brain. It can also cause inflammation throughout the entire body. Additionally, 90% of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) production occurs in the gut. To maintain a healthy gut microbiome, include probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, kombucha, organic sauerkraut and kimchi.
6) Monitor Food Sensitivities
Certain foods, additives or chemicals can cause adverse physical and mental reactions. Pay attention to how different foods affect your mood, energy, and physical state. Common food sensitivities include dairy, gluten, caffeine, eggs, MSG, aspartame, sulfites, fructose, food colors, and sugar alcohols. Sensitivities usually result in bloating, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, runny nose, nausea, rashes, reflux, or flushing of the skin. If you frequently experience these symptoms and suspect you might be suffering from food sensitivities, sign up for a free discovery call to see how a MRT Food Sensitivity Test can help!
7) Choose Omega-3 Rich Foods
Studies show that people that don’t get enough omega-3, may have higher rates of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce anxiety as and improve depression. Include flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and wild-caught fatty fish like Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines and tuna. An omega-3 supplement may be beneficial for vegans and those that consume little or no fish.
8) Include Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Due to environmental factors and the byproduct of metabolism, our bodies accumulate molecules called “free radicals” which can cause cell damage, aging and other problems. The brain is particularly at risk to free radicals. Antioxidants help “clean up” free radicals. To reduce the destructive effect of free radicals, include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet.
Fruits: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, apples, prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
Beans: Pinto, red kidney, dried small red
Fats: Walnuts, pecans, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, wheat germ, flax-seed, hemp seeds
Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, peppers, onions
Spices: Turmeric, ginger, oregano
9) Lifestyle Factors
Caffeine can trigger anxiety, dehydrate the body and interfere with sleep. Excessive caffeine intake can fatigue your adrenal glands and elevate the stress hormone cortisol. Adrenal fatigue is associated with other health problems such as high blood pressure, IBS, ulcers, acid reflux, and Crohn’s disease. Many people who are depressed also have problems with alcohol or drugs. Not only can they interfere with your mood, sleep and motivation, they can also reduce the effectiveness of your depression medications. Work with a qualified health professional if you need help with alcohol or drug dependence.