Depression and Diet
Trying to find a diet to ease depression? Unfortunately, there's no specific diet that works for depression. No studies have been done that indicate a particular eating plan can ease symptoms of clinical depression.
Still, while certain diets or foods may not ease depression (or put you instantly in a better mood), a healthy diet may help as part of an overall treatment for depression.
How Can Diet Affect Depression?
Here are 10 tips for eating if you or a loved one is recovering from clinical depression.
1. Eat a Diet High in Nutrients
Nutrients in foods support the body's repair, growth, and wellness. Nutrients we all need include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and even a small amount of fat. A deficiency in any of these nutrients lead to our bodies not working at full capacity -- and can even cause illness.
2. Fill Your Plate With Essential Antioxidants
Damaging molecules called free radicals are produced in our bodies during normal body functions -- and these free radicals contribute to aging and dysfunction. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E combat the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to tie up these free radicals and take away their destructive power.
Studies show that the brain is particularly at risk for free radical damage. Although there's no way to stop free radicals completely, we can reduce their destructive effect on the body by eating foods rich in antioxidants as part of a healthy diet, including:
- Sources of beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato
- Sources of vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato
- Sources of vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ
3. Eat "Smart" Carbs for a Calming Effect
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. Carbohydrate craving may be related to decreased serotonin activity, although experts are not sure if there is a link.
So, don't shun all carbs -- just make smart choices. Limit sugary foods and opt for smart or “complex” carbs (such as whole grains) rather than simple carbs (such as cakes and cookies), along with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which all contribute healthy carbs and fiber.
4. Eat Protein-Rich Foods to Boost Alertness
Foods rich in protein, like turkey, tuna, or chicken, are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine may help boost levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This boost helps you feel alert and makes it easier to concentrate. Try to include a protein source in your diet several times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy.
- Good sources of healthy proteins: beans and peas, lean beef, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products, yogurt