Fighting Depression With Good Nutrition
I have struggled with depression most of my adult life, most recently with the death of my mother. During the toughest days, I tried everything — therapy, anti-depressants, and trying hard to be happy. But most days, I felt I didn’t have anything left in me to keep going or lift my mood. And when I felt this way, my diet suffered.
If you are depressed and not making healthy nutrition choices, you will not get the energy and the nutrients your brain needs to feel emotionally better.
A 2009 study, reported in The British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that people who eat a lot of processed and junk foods up their chances of depression by as much as 58%. But yet so often, these are the foods we reach for when we are depressed.
Mental Health and Nutrition
Comfort foods, like pasta, fried and junk foods, and sweets, are foods we turn to when we are feeling emotionally drained or depressed. An emotional rise and a downhill plunge are the way these foods raise and lower blood sugar, and once that happens, your mood plummets too.
Researchers in Australia found people who were eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and whole grains had a lowered risk for becoming depressed, compared to those who were eating an unhealthy diet, which includes processed and fried foods.
A 2011 study out of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada in Spain found eating fast food and baked goods are linked to a greater risk of depression — as much as 51%.
There are good foods that bring real and last lasting comfort when are struggling with depression or on the verge of it. By eating foods containing a balance of nutrients, you can strengthen your mind and body in mood-boosting ways.
Eat For Your Mental Health
Making certain changes to your diet and eating certain foods may help you to manage depression and promote better moods. Here are some ways to help you fight depression symptoms and improve your mental health.
Increase Your Omega-3 Fats
Increased intake of omega-3s helps to protect against depression, according to a 2007 research study.
The Norwegian study, of around 22,000 study participants, found people who had a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and who were taking cod liver oil, was about 30% less likely to have depression symptoms. And the longer the participants took the cod liver oil, the further their risk was decreased.
Another study — this one out of Ireland — finds that omega-3 fatty acids may help improve symptoms of depressed mood in people already suffering from depression. Some of the study participants, who were at risk for hurting themselves, were given omega-3 acid supplements for 12 weeks, in addition to psychiatric care.
At the end of the 12-week period, the patients who had received the omega-3 supplements had significantly improved compared to the patients who had taken a placebo. They showed improvements in scores for depression, suicide risk, and management of daily stress.
There have been numerous other studies suggesting depressed people using antidepressants don’t show improvements until they are supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods high in omega-3s include salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed. If you do not like fish or are unable to consume omega-3 containing foods, talk to your doctor about an omega-3 supplement.
Get More Vitamin B
Vitamin B vitamins play an important part in regulating mood. In fact, there have been studies showing people with low levels of vitamin B12, B-6 or folate are also depressed.
Low levels of vitamin B are a result of poor eating habits and/or not being able to absorb vitamins from food sources. Older adults, vegetarians and people with digestion disorders may have trouble getting enough B vitamins, especially B-12.
You can get more B vitamins in your diet by eating a healthy diet that includes animal products, such as fish, lean meats, eggs, and milk. Fortified cereals also contain B-12 and other B vitamins.
If you do not eat meat or dairy products, talk to your doctor about alternative sources, including supplements, to help you get more vitamin B in your diet.