The role of nutrition in fighting depression
Nutrition is far more important than most people think when it comes to mental health. The saying, “You are what you eat”, is more real than most people want to believe.
Let’s take two fictional characters:
Mark is a young man who enjoys good food. He prepares his food and limits the amount of processed foods he eats. He has a balanced and varied diet, while enjoying the occasional treat.
David on the other hand tends to think he is eating healthily, but enjoys snacking on sweets and energy drinks. He tends to have meals at different times each day and usually just grabs a sandwich.
Mark’s body is in a routine and his mental health will benefit from getting a good balance of nutrients each day.
David is going to have many highs and lows due to sugar spikes. The lack of good wholesome food is going to make mental health issues worse, and as his fitness suffers, his mental health will as well.
Part of dealing with depression is taking responsibility for your own care. Now that is not to say that everything will be done perfectly all the time – it won’t, and it doesn’t have to be. But if we can see areas where we might try changing something then it is good to try.
Let’s say it seems too big a challenge at this point in time. Ask a friend or family member to help you with it. It is usually the last thing we want to do, but by asking them to help, you are allowing them to be a positive part of your life.
When it comes to eating habits, you want regular meals and to cut out all sugar if possible. Having someone help you with getting this in place will benefit you in the long run.
Sugar, as mentioned in the example of David, causes your body to have a lot of highs and lows and your mind will be constantly chasing a high to avoid the depression. This leads to more sugar intake and a vicious cycle.
Avoid overly sweet foods and processed foods if you can. If you can prepare a simple meal of baked potatoes and tuna with salad, for example, your body and mind will remain more balanced.
Caffeine and Alcohol are another couple of no-no’s. Ideally they should be avoided entirely, but definitely only take them in small doses if you feel you must. Both are depressants, but especially alcohol. It affects the whole nervous system and for someone with depression, it is inadvisable to drink any alcohol.
Sweeteners are another thing to avoid. The most common sweetener is Aspartame. This chemical actually blocks the serotonin production in your body and thus promotes depression. In case you don’t know, serotonin is the chemical responsible for mood stability. It therefore goes without saying, that you need it to be produced regularly to moderate your mood.
As a general rule, go for unprocessed foods when you are looking for your next shopping list. Things like raw fruit and vegetables, and basic meats like chicken and fish will benefit you hugely.
The following list shows a selection of 5 food groups which are proven to have a beneficial effect on the bodies mental health.
- Fatty Fish – Tuna, Mackerel, Bluefish and Wild Salmon.
- Low Fat Dairy foods
- Whole Grain Foods
Again, looking at the above list just shows that the more natural your diet, the better chance you have of dealing with your depression.
Unfortunately there is no diet that is guaranteed to get rid of depression completely. But, using the ideas presented here and adapting them to your own situation, will help you to get one step closer to being content.