Foods to help fight depression

Foods to fight depression - Centres for Health and Healing

Diet plays a large role in physical and mental health, including the severity of depression.

There is no known definitive cause for depression, although brain chemistry, biology, genetics, and environment all have ties to the disorder.

By looking at these factors, doctors, psychologists, and recovery experts have found different ways to improve people’s well-being, lower their symptoms, and improve their outlook on life.

This means that depression does not have a singular cause, nor does it have a singular treatment.

Dietary changes, however, can be highly impactful and alter everything from mood to sleep patterns.

The best foods for depression

Many people who struggle with depression experience ongoing stress and frustration.

Stress can cause the body to crave more high-fat, high-sugar foods. This, in turn, can lead to depression weight gain and malnutrition.

Regardless of weight, you can suffer from a nutritional deficiency. This means your body does not have enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, like iron, to perform properly.

Some signs of nutritional deficiency are physical, like lack of energy. But others are mental. Depression and anxiety are two of them.

These foods are helpful in treating depression as they help naturally elevate moods and regulate the body’s chemistry.

While treating depression takes more than just a diet, changing what you eat and choosing healthier options can have a noticeable impact on how you feel.

Vegetables

Vegetables for depression - Centres for Health and Healing

When assessing anyone’s diet, the first question a doctor will often ask is, “Do you eat a lot of vegetables?”

Fresh produce is important to total-body wellness, including good mental health.

Vegetables are filled with vitamins that improve brain performance.

They also help reduce inflammation, which may play a role in depression severity. Research shows that higher levels of inflammation throughout the body are tied to a greater risk of depression.

What’s more, that same research reveals that as depression increases stress throughout the body, inflammation can increase. This can create a negative feedback loop that both continues and worsens depression with time.

So, eating plenty of anti-inflammatory vegetables that are rich in brain-nourishing nutrients is key to balancing moods and improving general health.

Some of the best vegetables for depression are leafy greens like broccoli, kale, and spinach. They’re rich in the natural antioxidant vitamin E. Antioxidants help prevent oxidized stress levels from rising in the body.

Beans

Beans for depression - Centres for Health and Healing

You may also try eating beans and legumes, which are loaded with fibre and protein. Both nutrients maintain stable blood sugar levels, which can prevent mood fluctuations.

Choose beans that are high in folate, the natural form of vitamin B9. Folate may be able to work as a natural antidepressant.

Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, are a wonderful source of folate. You can enjoy them roasted and lightly seasoned, tossed into a salad (we suggest using dark greens, like spinach), or blended into hummus.

Eating 1 cup of cooked kidney beans can also deliver a good dose of folate — 131 mcg of folate, which is roughly 33% of a recommended daily value.

Poultry

Poultry for depression - Centres for Health and Healing

Poultry is better for your health than red meat.

Depression symptoms may improve if you eat more poultry or turkey. Both contain lean protein, which balances blood sugar levels and helps produce more serotonin, the mood-stabilizing hormone.

Poultry is also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate the production of serotonin and melatonin. Enjoy a chicken sandwich, but opt for a chicken breast over anything breaded or fried. Choose to eat poultry in its most natural state, such as grilled or baked. This is healthier than the fatty alternatives you’ll find on restaurant menus and in frozen meals.

Foods with probiotics

Probiotics are healthy living organisms that are good for gut health.

Depression has a strong connection to your intestinal tract, where most of your body’s serotonin is produced.

The brain-gut connection may explain why people who have conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Chron’s disease are more likely to suffer from depression.

The impact of the gut on mental health is so strong that it’s often referred to as the “second brain.” In the medical community, it’s known as the enteric nervous system or ENS.

Probiotics can help improve digestion and stimulate the 100-million-plus nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract.

Foods rich in probiotics include kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, tofu, and whole yogurt. You can also enjoy a probiotic-rich drink, kombucha, which is available in a wide variety of flavours.

Hydrating fruits

Hydrating fruits for depression - Centres for Health and Healing

Hydration plays a large role in mental health.

Those who don’t drink enough water may have higher blood sugar levels, worse moods, feel more tired, and experience greater depression and anxiety.

In addition to helping circulate the blood and protecting joints, water also ensures that nutrients are evenly absorbed throughout the body.

Drinking more water can naturally help boost your mood and help prevent binge eating, which many people with depression suffer from.

Additionally, you can avoid unhealthy snacks by swapping your typical go-to for hydrating fruits. Some of the best suggestions are:

  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Oranges

Fruits are a great addition to any diet because they also include natural sugars and plenty of vitamins. Processes or refined sugars, on the other hand, are shown to increase weight gain, worsen sleep, and lower mood.

What foods to avoid

Foods to avoid for depression - Centres for Health and Healing

Using your diet to manage depression might feel overwhelming at first.

With lower energy and a lack of motivation, you might struggle to eat healthy if you’re depressed. This is a common experience, but it is important to work hard to make easy, healthy meals rather than opting for ready-to-eat alternatives.

Packaged foods tend to contain high levels of preservatives and additives that keep food from going bad. At the same time, these don’t bring any nutritional value, but they can increase inflammation.

As you work toward eating healthier, start reading the ingredients list on anything you buy.

Consider what you’ll gain from each meal, rather than just what will fill you up.

It’s helpful to avoid these ingredients the most.

Added sugars

Natural sugar from fruits and some vegetables is good for you. It holds nutrients that your body needs to function properly.

Added sugars, however, are processed quickly and often stored by the body for later use. This is why eating so many processed or high-sugar foods can quickly lead to weight gain.

Added sugar comes in many forms. Some of the names you may see on food packaging include:

  • Juice concentrate
  • Fructose syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose

Be conscious of how much sugar you consume each day. It’s best to eat no more than 36 grams of sugar total per day, and no more than 24 grams of those should be from added sugars.

Refined foods

When something is “refined”, that means it does not occur naturally in the wild. When it comes to things like sugars and grains, this means they have been chemically engineered and added to food.

Carb-heavy foods are often loaded with refined grains that are not easy for the body to digest. They also lack nutritional value, so they can lead to weight gain while simultaneously fueling malnutrition.

Refined grains are often found in bread, rice, pasta, chips, and snack foods. Eating a large amount of these can cause you to feel a consistently lower mood, struggle with fatigue, and feel unmotivated throughout the day.

Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol and depression never mix well. Drinking to aid depression can also put you at risk of developing a concurrent disorder.

Concurrent disorders often develop when people use alcohol or drugs to cope with mental health problems.

Drinking, even moderately, can cause depression symptoms to worsen. You may feel worse, be at a greater risk of self-harm, and even experience suicidal thoughts while intoxicated.

Alcohol is actually called a depressant. It reduces cognitive performance, decreases impulse control, and worsens emotional regulation. It can also increase inflammation throughout the body and put you at a risk of a number of health conditions.

Someone who drinks to ease depression may put themselves at a higher risk of worsening their symptoms.

Rather than use alcohol as a sleep aid or depression reliever, it’s best to address mental health issues through therapy.

Can diet cure depression?

Finding the exact cure for anyone’s depression isn’t easy. Some people never feel entirely cured, but they earn to manage their symptoms and live life fully.

Recovering from depression takes time, gentleness, and patience. You should also have a support system to help you make small but powerful changes in your life.

We are always available to help you rediscover yourself. Whether you have struggled with mental health problems for years or only recently begun to live with depression, there is always help available.

In addition to diet and exercise plans, our therapists build customized treatments that address every aspect of a person’s well-being.

If you or someone you care for are struggling with depression, we can help. Please contact us at the Centres for Health and Healing to learn more about our depression treatment services.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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