The foods we eat have a huge impact on how we feel, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. More and more studies are revealing how eating a bad diet can heighten the symptoms associated with depression, while eating a healthy, nutritious diet can help to alleviate these symptoms and even act as a defense against mental illness.
Too many refined sugars and processed foods can impact your blood sugar levels, causing your moods to go up and down. These types of food can also cause inflammation in the body, including the brain, which has been connected to severe depression.
We all know that eating the right foods gives you more energy, makes your body feel stronger and allows you to function at your best, however getting the right nutrients also affects the level of serotonin in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, sleep patterns, appetite and mental well being.
Not all foods are created equally, with some packing more of a nutritional punch than others. The following foods are especially good for easing the symptoms of depression and increasing your mental and emotional well being.
Oily fish like salmon are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s help to reduce inflammation in the body and enhance the function of the brain and nervous system. Brain tissue is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and therefore the brain needs an adequate supply of these healthy fats for optimal growth, development and function.
A deficiency in these Omega 3 fatty acids weakens the structure of the brain cell membranes and nerve connections, which leads to cognitive and emotional disorders.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and swiss chard are nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins A, C, E, K and folate; minerals like iron and calcium; antioxidants; phytochemicals; carotenoids and Omega 3s.
They are the most nutrient dense food available and the food that matches human nutritional needs most completely. Dark leafy greens fight against inflammation in the body which can lead to depression and provide a source of insoluble fibre which helps the body to remove harmful toxins. They are also a major source of chlorophyll which helps to heal and cleanse all our organs.
Walnuts are the one of the richest plant based sources of omega 3 fatty acids and as we mentioned earlier, Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for healthy brain function. Walnuts also contain B vitamins and magnesium, both of which are responsible for boosting your mood, as well as containing polyphenols and antioxidants that improve neural connections and the overall health of the brain.
Mushrooms are great for depression as they help to promote healthy gut bacteria. Approximately 95% of the the body’s serotonin is produced in the intestinal tract, where it then carries emotional messages from the stomach to the brain through neural pathways.
As mentioned earlier serotonin is the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter that helps with mental well being. To keep the serotonin moving through the body efficiently, healthy gut bacteria is critical.
Also, the chemical properties of mushrooms contribute to lower blood sugar levels which helps to stabilise your moods and promote a well balanced emotional state.
Blueberries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all available foods and have many health benefits such as sharper cognition. But all berries including strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are rich in vitamin C which has been found to help combat stress by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. Continuous high stress levels play a major role in depression.
These foods are a great way to help ease the symptoms of depression and help those suffering from this serious mental illness on the path to recovery. However, depression is not something you can cure overnight and it is crucial that along with a healthy nutritious diet, you get support from a qualified therapist to work through your depression.