Most people are aware of the link between physical health and nutrition, but your diet can affect depression and your mental health as well. Habits like skipping meals and over consuming sweets can worsen depression and brain function. Conversely, eating healthy foods can improve your mood and sharpen your thinking.
For instance, serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes mood and cognition, can be triggered by eating carbohydrates. At least 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive system. Therefore, a low carbohydrate diet can affect depression. For better moods and thinking, choose healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. These carbohydrates provide an enduring and stable effect on the brain — versus sugary foods or highly processed carbohydrates like many white breads and pastas.
Some fats are good! Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for brain function and preventing depression as the brain contains large amounts of lipids (fats), made of fatty acids. You can consume omega-3 fatty acids through fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, or through oral supplements. Consuming a diet with sufficient B vitamins may also improve your mood. They are found in salmon, eggs and beef, among others.
Another consideration for people with depression is that you may have a low level of folic acid and zinc. Supplementing both folic acid and zinc may increase the effectiveness of antidepressants. Zinc is in many foods such as shellfish, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Sources of folic acid include broccoli, kidney beans, brussel sprouts, and folate fortified cereals.
More common in women, especially in girls/women of child bearing age, depressive symptoms could be caused by insufficient iron. Increasing iron in the diet can affect depression. Red meat, leafy greens, dried fruits, and iron-fortified cereals are some of the ways you can increase your iron.
Eating a nutritious and diverse diet is key to improving your health. If you struggle with depression, seek out a diet rich in these healthy foods in addition to visiting with your doctor. As always, check with your doctor before taking new supplements. Make an appointment with our office if you would like to learn more about how your diet can affect depression.