Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid

Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid

According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally.[1]

Symptoms of depression can include sadness, lethargy and a general loss of interest in life.

There are a number of ways to combat this and a diet for depression can help not only your mental health but your well-being as well. In fact, a 2017 study found that the symptoms of people with moderate-to-severe depression improved when they received nutritional counseling sessions and ate a more healthful diet for 12 weeks.[2]

Just imagine having higher levels of optimism, energy, positivity, focus, and a greater interest in life. Well, you can.

Making some adjustments to your diet can help with your depression. Not only are there foods that you could eat to help with your depression but there are foods that you should avoid.

Foods That Help With Depression

1. Oily Fish

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, light tuna and mackerel are a healthy source of Vitamin D.[3] Research has shown that Vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.[4] Other health benefits include reducing fatigue and improving heart health.

If you run low on energy it can increase your chances of becoming irritable which could lead to a number of other negative behaviors. And this is not the emotional path that you want to go down, especially if you are struggling with depression.

We obtain most of our vitamin D from the sun but dietary sources are also important. Other sources include egg yolks, beef liver and fortified dairy products. When it comes to egg yolks, be sure to check the national label as there can be variances in the amount of Vitamin D.

2. Vegetables

It had to be said. Remember those days when you were told to eat your vegetables?

Well, turns out there was a very good reason. Eating vegetables can help if you struggle with depression.

Darker leafy greens contain folate[5] and people that have depression have been found to have a lower dietary intake of folate than those without depression.[6]

They also contain vitamins A, C, E, and K. Which will supply you with a number of healthy benefits such as maintaining brain function and strengthening your immune system.

Injecting some spinach, kale or arugula into your diet could help improve your mood. If you’re not a fan of any of these then you can use lettuce, broccoli or asparagus.

3. Walnuts

Omega-3 fatty acids are a great source of protein to keep a healthy balance of blood sugar levels.[7]

They are also called essential fats, because unlike some other substances, they can’t be manufactured within the human body, and therefore it is essential that you take them in through your diet.

Walnuts are bursting with Omega-3 and they are commonly known to support brain health and lower blood pressure.

In fact, one study conducted between 2005-2014 found that depression scores came in 26% lower among those that consumed about ¼ cup of walnuts per day.[8]

As you can see, incorporating a source of Omega-3 like walnuts enhances a diet for depression.

4. Poultry

Chicken and Turkey are important for a number of reasons. Not only do they contain lean protein to maintain health but they also contain Tryptophan.[9]

The body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin [10] and serotonin.[11] Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin is thought to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain.

You may have even experienced a healthy boost of melatonin levels, in the form of a nap, after you have eaten a turkey dinner.

And while you don’t have to eat a turkey dinner everyday, incorporating chicken or turkey into your routine can give you a healthy balance of rest and energy.

In fact, just 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast offers 123% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

Foods That Worsen Depression

When coping with depression, it’s important to be aware of foods that could have a negative impact on you. If you limit or, in some cases, eliminate these foods altogether you will increase your chances of feeling better.

5. Alcohol

It’s important to mention this because unfortunately a lot of people turn to alcohol when they are having a bad day. However, it is best to limit or eliminate alcohol altogether.

Alcohol is a depressant. When you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse.

This could lead you to make bad decisions that will further your depressive state.

Not too mention, the energy and effort that is put into drinking could be used to make healthy choices, like preparing a healthy meal.

To decrease your chances of drinking alcohol you could refrain from visiting the wine and spirits store, avoid the section in the grocery store that has alcohol, or put a halt to eating at places that serve alcoholic beverages.

It can be too easy to convince yourself that alcohol will fix everything, when in fact it could cause further damage.

6. Sugar

An excess of sugary foods can have long-term implications on your health. And while it’s not realistic to eliminate sugar entirely, you should pay close attention to the amount of sugar you consume.

The American Heart Association recommends adults eat no more than 25 (women) to 36 (men) grams of added sugar every day.[12]

Foods like cakes, cookies and pies are high in sugar and can alter your mood. It may make you feel good temporarily but it’s just that, temporary.

Cutting back on sugar will help you keep your blood sugar levels more balanced which will help your mood stay more evenly balanced.

Since sugar offers very little nutritional value, it actually has a drastic impact on the B vitamins.[13] In order for the body to convert sugar into energy, it uses up these important mood enhancing vitamins. In particular vitamin B-12 and B6.[14]

When the body runs low on these vitamins it leads to a lack of energy and poor brain function. This makes it easier to slip into a more depressive state.

7. Fast Food

Refined foods like fast food burgers and fries are loaded with ingredients that should be avoided in your diet for depression.[15]

A study confirmed that the consumption of hamburgers, sausages, and pizza as well as muffins, donuts, and croissants may have a detrimental effect on depression risk.[16]

This is because these foods are high in trans-fat and trans-isomer fatty acids. And these are fatty acids that are non-essential to the human diet.

There is very little national value in these types of foods. You would be better served if you were to replace those foods with fresh fruits and vegetables.

8. Caffeine

In some cases, eliminating caffeine might seem like an impossible and unrealistic task.

That’s why moderation is key, particularly when you are experiencing depression-like symptoms.

Caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns and make you feel anxious. Sleep deprivation can be a byproduct effect of caffeine which can lead you to feel irritable and exhausted, both of which do not compliment depression whatsoever.

It’s also easy to forget that caffeine is a psychoactive drug.[17] Which by definition means it changes mood, brain function and behavior. But because it’s legal and unregulated, roughly 90% of people in North America consume it daily

Replace your caffeinated drinks such as coffee or energy drink with a healthier option like green tea.

Bottom Line

Constructing a diet for depression can do wonders for your mind, body and spirit. As you can see, your body can be a direct reflection of the food that you’re putting into it.

Healthier, smarter choices will help you in the long run. And depending on what your eating habits are like right now, incorporating any of these foods into your diet may be a lot easier than you think.

A few tweaks to your daily routine may make all the difference for you. The clearer your mind is the better chance you have at improving your diet daily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

Featured photo credit: Markus Winkler via unsplash.com

Reference

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