What we eat does become us, so it’s no leap that science has proven that eating can change how we feel. What we eat often will impact our day-to-day lives in ways that we may not even realize, especially when your diet is feeding into your depression.
So let’s look at the risk behind a poor diet and how it affects your mental health and how you can overcome negative emotions and encourage positive ones.
The Risks Behind Depression
Depression affects a lot more than just your mood. It can have a direct impact on your social life, job opportunities, and even your money. Things like life insurance with depression are higher than when you don’t have a history of depression. Over time you can also get in a perpetual spiral of having no energy to take care of your basic needs, which in turn leaves you with no energy to do anything.
While there are several ways to help with your depression, one of the most beneficial ones is to use your diet not only to help with your mood but also to improve your overall quality of life.
The Science Behind Diet and Depression
We don’t have a clear answer as to whether your diet for sure can cause anxiety and depression. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t studies out there that suggest that diet does help improve your mood when you have depression and anxiety.
For example, we know that vitamins can have an impact on how your body breaks down enzymes, which in turn help to create serotonin, the feel-good chemical, within your brain. We also know that consuming too much sugar is linked to depression, and some studies suggest that the health of your gut has an impact on your mental health as well.
Should you change your diet?
So if you have depression, should you be looking to change your diet? Well, that depends on the individual. Medical treatment from a healthcare provider is your first step in treating severe depression, but it isn’t a bad idea to improve your diet along with any treatment your doctor prescribes. They may even recommend you take a look at your diet for any possible foods that could be exacerbating your symptoms.
Is emotional eating bad for you?
When suffering from depression, you may find yourself eating far more than you usually do. For others, this could be the exact opposite. Both circumstances could have adverse effects on your overall health. You will need a consistent diet of healthy food to keep your body healthy and functioning. The last thing you will want to deal with on top of a mental health crisis is an illness brought about by unhealthy eating or not eating at all.
Healthy Foods You Should Eat for Depression
So what are some healthy foods you should eat?
- Antioxidant foods: Antioxidants help decrease the damage that molecules produced by your body called free radicals. Several foods have antioxidants in them such as beta-carotene, found in apricots, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. You can also take plenty of vitamin C and vitamin E. Some vitamin C-rich foods are blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, oranges, and strawberries. Your vitamin E-rich foods are foods like nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, margarine, and wheat germ.
- Smart carbs: Smart carbs are linked to serotonin development, and often when you crave carbs, it is due to your body lacking serotonin. Be careful what carbs you consume, though. Go for whole-grain foods instead of processed foods, as whole grains are healthier for you. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are also another good source of carbs.
- Protein-rich foods: These are foods like tuna, chicken, and turkey, which have an amino acid in them called tryptophan. This amino acid is very helpful in making serotonin for your body. These foods are a successful way to manage brain fog, and studies recommend you have protein-rich food at least once a day.
- Vitamin D-rich foods: Vitamin D is another vitamin that studies show helps with depression. Your body has a lot of vitamin D receptors throughout it, especially within your brain. Many studies show those with higher amounts of vitamin D are less likely to suffer from depression. Another study shows that people with depression get better when they have a larger amount of vitamin D in their bodies. Taking vitamin D supplements is an easy way to counteract seasonal depression, in particular.
- Selenium-rich foods: A few studies have found that those with lower amounts of selenium in their diets tend to suffer from major depression. The best way to get enough selenium is to eat foods with it naturally in them. The best recommendations for this are beans and legumes, lean meat, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds, seafood, and whole grains.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: There are a few studies showing that those with lower amounts of omega-3 in their diets tend to suffer from major depression. Omega-3 is also great for your heart, so it doesn’t hurt to increase the amount that you consume. Good sources of omega-3 in your diet are fatty fish, flaxseed, canola and soybean oil, nuts, and vegetables.
As you can see, some foods have multiple benefits such as nuts being good for carbs, selenium, and omega-3, and other foods like fish being rich in protein and omega-3 acids. A common diet that contains many of these foods is the Mediterranean diet, which is worth checking out if you need a starting point for reference on what kinds of foods you should eat.
Foods You Should Avoid with Depression
In addition to adding a lot of healthy foods to your diet, you will want to cut back on things such as sugar, alcohol, refined grains, and caffeine. Studies show that these foods have a number of detriments to your health and are often linked to depression and anxiety.
If you want to do further research, speak with your doctor first. You may also consider discussing your diet with a nutritionist. Check to see if your health insurance covers a nutritionist or other specialist.
Brennan Lingo writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. He is a freelance writer specializing in insurance and mental health.