Life has its ups and downs, and everyone feels a bit blue from time to time. If you find that you are constantly in the doldrums, you may very well be suffering from depression.
This mood disorder causes people to feel angry, sad and apathetic on an ongoing basis. If you find that sorrow is interfering with your daily life, it’s time to take some proactive steps to boost your mood and ward off depression.
Luckily, there are many natural approaches to brightening your mood and reducing feelings of depression. One of the most important areas in which you can make positive improvements is nutrition.
By understanding which nutrients work best to boost your moods and adjusting your diet accordingly, you can make a big difference in your overall feelings of happiness contentment and well-being.
In this article, we will discuss the nutrient deficiencies that may cause depression and make dietary recommendations to help you address any deficiencies you may be experiencing.
We will also provide sound advice and ideas about other ways you can naturally defeat depression. Read on to learn more.
How To Eat To Ease Depression
Be sure your daily diet provides you with all the nutrition your body needs to promote growth, repair and overall wellness.
A natural, balanced, whole foods diet should provide ample amounts of vitamins and minerals along with a balanced supply of high quality protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
If your diet is lacking in any of these essentials, your health and your sense of well-being may be compromised.
Complex Carbohydrates Can Calm Your Moods
Simple carbohydrates such as those found in processed foods are metabolized as sugar. This can cause you to feel jittery, and it can compromise your gut health.
This is just one of the many good reasons why you should avoid products made with white flour and processed foods in general.
Don’t make the mistake of avoiding carbohydrates altogether, though. Complex carbohydrates found in:
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
… metabolize differently than simple carbohydrates.
They take longer and generally come packaged with fiber which helps promote good gut health. Is one of the many good reasons why it’s so important to avoid processed foods and eat whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
High Quality Protein Provides Valuable Nutrients
It is important to eat the right amount of a dense source of high quality protein in order to satisfy your appetite, nourish your body and quell your anxiety.
Additionally, high quality protein delivers a very essential amino acid known as tryptophan. This nutrient increases the production of midbrain serotonin, which is essential in mood regulation.
For people who eat meat, some very good sources of tryptophan include chicken, turkey and other fowl. Tuna and other fish are also a good source of tryptophan.
If you do not eat meat, dairy products, soy products, beans and lentils are good sources of high quality protein.
Antioxidants Defend Against Inflammation and Illness
You may have heard of free radicals, but you may be unsure as to exactly what they do.
Free radicals are damaging molecules that are naturally produced within your body. They are quite destructive and can cause dysfunction and cell damage while accelerating the effects of aging.
Vitamin C, vitamin E and the antioxidant beta-carotene can help defend you against the damage caused by free radicals.
You may be surprised to know that free radical damage is especially prevalent in the central nervous system and in the brain. The damage caused by free radicals can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
To get plenty of vitamin C in your diet, eat lots of fresh produce. Some of the best choices include citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin E can be found in abundance in healthy oils such as flax seed oil and wheat germ oil. Snacking on seeds and nuts is also a good way to include vitamin E in your diet.
Many of the fresh fruits and veggies that provide vitamin C also provide beta-carotene. All-natural beta-carotene is abundant in orange fruits and veggies such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peaches, cantaloupe and pumpkin.
Dark green veggies are also a good source of beta-carotene. Examples include spinach and collard greens.
Get Plenty Of B Vitamins
B vitamins in general are essential for a strong immune system and an overall sense of well-being. Like vitamin C, your body cannot produce B vitamins. They are water-soluble vitamins and must be replenished on a daily basis.
Vitamin B12 Is the Feel-Good Vitamin!
Of the B vitamins, B 12 is especially effective in combating symptoms of depression. As a matter of fact, a vitamin B12 deficiency may be the cause of your depression.
One reason for this is that B 12 reduces homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a byproduct of the metabolism of protein. When homocysteine levels are high, so is the risk of depression.
In 2009, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a study that explained the ways in which a deficiency of B12 can contribute to severe depression.
The study pointed out that this risk is especially true among senior citizens, who tend to suffer from B12 deficiency.
The 2009 study was backed up by a 2013 study presented by the publication, Open Neurology Journal. This study explained the ways in which supplementation with vitamin B12 can be helpful in the treatment of patients suffering from major depressive disorders.
The study stated that, when used in conjunction with antidepressants, vitamin B12 significantly enhanced improvement of depressive symptoms.
To be sure that you are getting enough B12, add these foods to your diet:
- High Quality Protein Sources
- Fortified Whole Grain Cereals
- Nutritional Yeasts
Folate Supports The Effectiveness Of Antidepressant Medication
Folate is another B vitamin that is essential in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. These are:
Without enough folate in your daily diet, you are bound to feel down in the dumps. Lack of folate can lead to severe depression.
Additionally, if you do not have enough folate in your system any antidepressant you are taking may not be able to provide you with its full effect.
In order to be sure of getting enough folate in your diet, add these foods:
- Green Leafy Veggies
- Citrus Fruits
Talk with your doctor or healthcare professional about supplementing with folate.
Vitamin B6 Supports the Creation of Brain Chemicals and Neurotransmitters
We’ve seen how important vitamin B 12 is in terms of good psychological health.
You may be interested to know that vitamin B6 is essential to your body’s ability to absorb the vitamin 12 you take in.
To be sure of getting enough vitamin B6 in your diet, add high quality protein sources and dairy products, along with fresh fruits, veggies and seeds. These foods are especially high in B6:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Cottage Cheese
A balanced B vitamin supplement will also help you get the amount of vitamin B6 you need every day. Consult your physician or healthcare professional to determine the right supplement to suit your needs.
Iron Deficiency Reduces Red Blood Cells and Oxygen to the Brain
Your brain needs oxygen to function properly, and part of that functioning is a positive outlook! When you don’t have enough iron in your diet, you’re very likely to experience brain fog, fatigue, and irritability.
Lack of iron in the diet can also lead to a loss of appetite, which further depletes the nutrients available to your body for proper functioning.
For this reason, a lack of iron in your diet can lead to problems with social – emotional development, sensorimotor function, cognitive functioning and more.
A study presented by BMC Psychiatry in 2013 stated that people who are suffering from iron deficiency anemia also frequently experience problems such as:
- Unipolar Depressive Disorder
- Delayed Development
- Mental Retardation
- Bipolar Disorder
- Anxiety Disorder
To be sure of getting enough iron, eat:
Also be sure to eat all of the foods mentioned that are rich in vitamin C because this will help boost your body’s ability to absorb iron.
Amino Acids Help Build Protein
Protein is the precursor to neurotransmitters, and amino acids are necessary to build protein. If your brain is to function properly, efficient neurotransmitter manufacturer is essential.
Without enough amino acids, you are at high risk for suffering from anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
There are nine essential amino acids, and each has a different function. To be sure of getting plenty of amino acids for healthy functioning of all of the systems of your body, eat high quality sources of protein such as seeds and nuts, fish, beans and eggs.
Vitamin D Is Essential to Overall Good Health and Good Moods
When we spend the right amount of time in the sunshine, we feel better!
We have always known this as a matter of common sense, but now we are beginning to understand that the reason sunshine makes us feel better is that exposure to sunshine helps our bodies to produce natural, healthful vitamin D.
With plenty of vitamin D in your system, your body will produce an ample amount of midbrain serotonin and dopamine, which are essential for a positive outlook. Vitamin D also supports a strong immune system and good bone health.
Unfortunately, the news cycle tells us the rays of the sun can be a bit more dangerous than they were in the past.
For this reason people have become cautious about sun exposure. Unfortunately, this caution has led to a new problem – vitamin D deficiency!
Because of the danger presented by the sun’s rays, physicians and dermatologists commonly advise patients to wear sunscreen at all times.
This has turned out to be a very bad idea because human beings need a certain amount of sunshine (and the production of vitamin D it stimulates) for good health and overall well-being.
To be sure that you are getting enough vitamin D, spend about 15 minutes in the sun daily without sunscreen. You should also supplement with vitamin D to be certain of getting an adequate amount.
Be careful not to overdo it because excessive amounts of vitamin D can interfere with your calcium levels and may disrupt the functioning of your kidneys. Consult your health care advisor to determine the best amount of vitamin D supplementation.
Selenium Is Essential for Good Moods
An adequate level of selenium is essential for proper thyroid function, and having a healthy thyroid gland is very important for overall mental health.
Selenium plays a vital role in proper brain functioning and has been shown to improve overall mood and help lessen depressive symptoms. Selenium also acts as an antioxidant.
In surveys of people suffering with depression, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that their intake of the mineral selenium is lower than adequate. For adults, the recommended daily allowance of selenium is 55 micrograms.
Luckily many of the foods that provide other nutrients that are vital to combat depression (vitamins C, D, and E, protein,, complex carbs, etc.) also contain selenium. To be sure of getting enough selenium in your diet you should eat plenty of:
- High-Quality Sources of Protein
- Fish and Seafood
- Seeds and Nuts
- Whole Grains
Take note that Brazil nuts are especially high in selenium; however, it is important to purchase them in the shell if you want to reap the most benefit. Once they are shelled, the selenium content drops.
Magnesium Supports Dopamine and Serotonin Production
Another mineral we are learning to appreciate more and more these days is magnesium. According to a study published by Medical Hypotheses in 2006, a diet that is deficient in magnesium can cause a number of mental health problems including major depression.
Lack of magnesium in the diet can even cause a lowering of IQ points.
Magnesium helps reduce symptoms of depression by activating the enzymes that are necessary for the production of dopamine and serotonin. It is also essential for good cardiovascular health, healthy bones and a general ability to manage stress.
To be certain of getting enough magnesium in your diet, be sure to include these foods:
- Green Leafy Veggies
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sea Vegetables
- Whole Grains
Additionally, you should be careful not to compromise your magnesium levels with negative dietary habits. Too much caffeine, alcohol, sugar and simple carbohydrates can deplete your level of magnesium.
Zinc Is Necessary for Neurotransmitter Functioning and Production
Zinc is a micronutrient that is essential for proper neuronal functioning. It is involved in more than 250 individual biochemical pathways that provide key support to the functioning of many organs throughout your body.
In studies published in both Biological Psychiatry Progress and in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, it has been noted that zinc is essential in the reduction of inflammation in neural pathways.
Furthermore, these publications report that there is a definite link between incidence of depression and low concentration of zinc levels in the bloodstream.
To be certain of getting enough zinc, add these foods to your diet:
- Seeds and Nuts
- Dairy Products
- Whole Grains
- Red Meat
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may wish to also supplement with zinc. Speak with your healthcare professional about the right amount of zinc supplementation to suit your needs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Essential for Your Central Nervous System and Proper Brain Function
Omega-3 fatty acids are absolutely vital for overall good health. They help regulate your cholesterol levels and are essential for brain cell structure and neuron function.
Two revered publications, Medical Hypotheses and Oxidative Medicine & Cellular Longevity have presented scholarly studies that support the theory that lack of omega-3 fatty acids and depression are closely intertwined.
These nutrients help keep your entire system lubricated and especially coat your central nervous system to support better impulse conductivity.
A lack of omega-3 fatty acids can cause a wide variety of symptoms ranging from minor mood disruptions to inflamed joints to dry eye to major depressive disorders.
Luckily, many of the foods already mentioned are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are a meat-eater, you can get your omega-3 fatty acids by eating fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, sardines and salmon at least once a week. Omega-3 fortified eggs are also a good source. These eggs come from chickens that are fed flaxseed!
If you do not eat meat or animal products, be sure to get plenty of flaxseed oil and nuts in your diet.
Alpha linolenic acid is another important type of omega-3 fatty acid, and it can be sourced from dark green leafy veggies, walnuts and flaxseed oil.
Establish a Healthy Lifestyle
We really are what we eat, but getting the right nutrients is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to creating overall good health and a positive outlook.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it goes without saying that you should avoid negative lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking or using tobacco products, using illicit drugs and/or becoming excessively dependent upon prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
All of these activities can dampen your mood, disrupt your sleep cycles, cause anxiety and generally interfere with your sense of well-being.
Excessive use of caffeine can also cause many problems for people who are suffering from depression.
Additionally, consuming empty-calorie products that are filled with chemicals and artificial ingredients (i.e. soft drinks) can also jangle your nerves, disrupt your sleep and ruin your mood.
Maintaining healthy weight is very important to maintaining a positive outlook.
This is not just because of the psychological effect but also because being either overweight or underweight can cause physiological changes that affect your immune system and your hormones.
When you arrange your diet around getting proper nutrition to support a positive outlook and sense of well-being, you will probably find that any weight problems you have been experiencing will gradually resolve.
This is equally true whether you are overweight or underweight.
Maintaining a good overall level of health and fitness can go far toward helping you combat depression naturally.
For this reason, in addition to practicing good nutritional habits you should also add 15 or 20 minutes of light to moderate exercise to your daily activities.
Your exercise routine does not have to be a punishing gym workout. Give yourself the gift of a little bit of time every day to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Go for a walk or bike ride, take a swim, play a game or otherwise do something active to get your blood circulating and keep your body moving.
How to Get Started
One conundrum many people suffering from depression face is that it is very difficult to get motivated to begin an anti-depression lifestyle.
Unfortunately, some of the symptoms of depression are loss of appetite, lack of energy and generalized aches and pains. This feeling of malaise can make it very difficult to address the symptoms of depression.
Begin by being kind to yourself. Realize that the changes you are making to your diet are a gift to yourself. You deserve to eat well and enjoy good health.
Make your dietary changes gradually by adding good foods that you genuinely like. As your body becomes more used to healthy foods, you will find yourself developing a real desire for them.
Approach exercise by adding enjoyable activities to your life. If you are not exercising at all now, you may wish to begin with gentle stretching and deep breathing. These activities can help your body prepare for more active exercise.
As you gradually add positive, life-giving foods, supplements and activities to your diet you will find yourself feeling better and better. Before you know it, you may find yourself experiencing a happier and brighter outlook.