Depression & Nutrition
by Emily Brown King
Depression & Nutrition
The effect of diet and nutrition on diseases like diabetes, obesity and even cancer are well known. We know that we can reduce our risk for cancer by eating foods high in antioxidants. Obesity can be controlled by limiting fat and calorie consumption. The link between diet and mental disorders is less clear. However, there are ways that you can control the symptoms of depression through diet and nutrition.
With the popularity of weight loss plans like the Atkin's Diet and South Beach Diet, many people mistake carbohydrates to be unhealthy. Carbohydrates are essential in the functioning of many body systems, including the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that promotes a feeling of well being and keeps depression at bay. People who severely limit their carbohydrate intake are at risk for depression. The trick is to consume more complex carbohydrates, like whole grain breads, cereal, fruit and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates give you a moderate serotonin boost that lasts a long time. Sugary foods and other refined carbohydrates may make you feel good at first, but the feeling will be short-lived.
A diet low in certain vitamins can also trigger depression. Some people, women especially, do not get enough B6 and B12 from their diets. Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to decreased levels of serotonin production, causing mood changes. A low level of vitamin B12 and folic acid can lead to depression for similar reasons. Folic acid deficiency is very common, mainly because it is destroyed by cooking and is found in green leafy vegetables, which many people do not get enough of.
If you need a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning, you might want to rethink it. Caffeine affects the nervous system, making you more prone to anxiety and depression. Just like sugar, it will give you a brief high but eventually you will crash.
Small, Frequent Meals
Your mood can change as your blood sugar levels change. For people who are prone to depression, it is important to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to keep levels from dipping. Eating frequently will keep you from feeling starved and then overeating, causing blood sugar to spike.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found naturally in certain oils, nuts and fatty fish, help maintain nerve health. They are needed to form the protective membrane around nerve cells that keep them functioning properly. People who have depression often have neurotransmitters that aren't functioning properly.