Your body and mind are part of your overall holistic health. The food you eat, or your fuel, will affect all aspects of your wellness for better or worse. Whether you’re struggling with a diagnosed depression or just “feel blue” from time to time, your diet and drink choices can play a significant role in helping to manage the symptoms of depression. Keep in mind that clinical depression may also require other forms of treatments, such as mental health services or medications that only your doctor can prescribe.
Most people can benefit from consuming more antioxidants, and this is especially true for those with depression. Antioxidants are available in a wide variety of foods and help to minimize cell damage. Our bodies create free radicals naturally, leading to cell damage, and numerous studies have shown that the brain is particularly vulnerable to this damage. We can’t stop the body’s creation of free radicals entirely, but we can slow them down and reduce the destruction they can cause—including depression—by adding more broccoli, carrots, pumpkins, kiwi, oranges, potatoes, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, and other foods to our diet that are rich in antioxidants.
Load Up on Smart Carbs
There’s been a carb battle in recent decades, but good carbs or “smart carbs” are known to increase serotonin. This is the mood-boosting chemical in the brain that makes us feel good and happy. Sometimes when we’re craving carbs, we might actually be having a low level of serotonin activity. Be sure to add more complex carbs in your diet, which includes whole grains as well as vegetables, legumes, and fruits.
Upping protein intake can help to boost alertness and is a natural remedy for depression. Most Americans don’t get enough protein in their diet, and you can find plenty of options like tuna, turkey, and chicken—all of which also have the amino acid tryptophan that also boosts serotonin creation. Eating protein throughout the day, such as nuts for a snack, can also help you stay fuller longer.
Approaches for a Depression-Busting Diet
Since your gut is connected to your brain, it’s important to treat it kindly and adopt an overall healthier diet. The Mediterranean diet is a great choice to get more B vitamins into your daily meals. Studies have shown that depression increases in women who don’t get enough vitamin B12, which is especially true for smokers. Men tend to have higher depression rates if they don’t get enough folate. The Mediterranean diet is rich in good fats and vitamin-packed vegetables as well as lean meats for a balanced and delicious diet.
Smoking is just one bad habit that can deplete your holistic health. Alcohol also plays a role, particularly for those struggling with depression. Depression and alcohol addiction often go hand in hand, especially since alcohol is a depressant in itself. Those with clinical depression are often advised to steer clear of alcohol entirely since it can dramatically (and negatively) inform emotional and mental health.
Reassess Your Vitamin Intake
Most Americans lack at least one or more vitamins, and it’s a good idea to get a full-panel vitamin deficiency screening from your doctor annually. For those who live in overcast regions (especially if you’re a transplant), you might be lacking in vitamin D. This can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is linked to depression. Not having enough vitamin D can make anyone feel blue, regardless of your depression diagnosis. However, be careful when it comes to simply taking supplements. There’s such a thing as vitamin D toxicity, which can affect kidneys and calcium levels.
Studies have also shown that low levels of selenium are linked to depression. Most adults require 55 micrograms per day, though this can vary person to person, and it’s always best to ask your doctor for a personal recommendation. Instead of taking a supplement, you can get more selenium in your diet with beans, lean meats, nuts and seeds, whole grains, seafood, and dairy products that are low in fat.
Everyone has a diet, and it doesn’t need to be a four-letter word. Put what you eat (and don’t) to work for you for a better mood, more clarity, and a healthier life.