Before we delve into foods for depression, we would be remiss if we did not state that the causes of depression are not fully understood, but most experts agree that they are probably many and varied. Put simply, depression is a complex condition. It may be triggered by a variety of reasons, including:
* Traumatic life event
* Chemical imbalances in the brain
* Thyroid disorders
* Nutritional deficiencies
* Poor nutrition
* Consumption of sugar
* Lack of exercise
* Any serious physical disorder or allergies
In addition, food allergies and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are said to be a common cause of depression.
According to Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, a leading nutritional consultant for more than two decades and author of the well renowned tome "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" who states:
"Whatever the factors that trigger it, depression begins with a disturbance in the part of the brain that governs moods." (Third Edition: Page 315)
Bottom line ....
There are many types of depression, with variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence and, as such, professional medical help is needed. Immediately contact your physician or call a suicide hot line or emergency local number if you're having suicidal thoughts.
In regards to foods for depression, it's important to keep in mind that foods greatly influence the brain's behavior. Therefore, a poor diet, particularly one that includes a lot of junk foods, is a common cause of depression. More specifically, the levels of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals which regulate our behavior, are controlled by what foods we eat, and neurotransmitters are closely linked to mood. The neurotransmitters, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are the three most commonly associated with mood.
Now, without further adieu, let's address specific foods for depression and how it may benefit you or a loved one.
Foods for Depression: Food Recommendations
The B complex vitamins play a major role in the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system. In fact, the B vitamins are often referred to as the stress and energy vitamins. Nevertheless, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety and depression can all be signs of a B vitamin deficiency. Most importantly, studies show that clinical depression sufferers often have low levels of one or more of the B vitamins (especially B6, B12 and folic acid) .
Best food sources of the B vitamins: whole grains, all seeds, nuts, liver, kidney, eggs, bran, wheatgerm, brewer's yeast, lentils, beans, soybeans, peas, dairy products, and leafy green vegetables.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that every cell in the body needs and hundreds of body processes rely on it. Put simply, zinc has an arsenal of important functions, including it is essential for energy production and brain health. Zinc has been found to be deficient in depression sufferers and, as such, you may want to consider boosting food sources containing zinc.
Best food sources of zinc: meat, liver, seafood (especially oysters), wheat germ, brewer's yeast, pumpkin seeds, eggs, ground mustard, and nonfat dry milk.
Complex Carbohydrates - Eat a diet that includes lots of complex carbohydrates. Why? This is because a diet that is too low in complex carbohydrates can cause serotonin depletion and depression.
Best food sources of complex carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, brown rice, millet, legumes, soybeans, and soy products.
Omega-3 fatty acids -The brain requires essential fatty acids, especially DHA, to function properly. In fact, the brain is 60 percent fat. Researchers have found that the lack of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA is linked to depression.
Best food sources of omega-3 fatty acids: Cold water fish like salmon, trout or tuna.
Tryptophan - Tryptophan is an essential amino acid used by the brain produce serotonin, a chemical that is instrumental in regulating mood. However, the body needs sufficient amounts of vitamins B6 and C, folic acid, and magnesium for the formation of tryptophan, which, in turn, is required for the formation of the brain chemical serotonin. In addition, tryptophan is necessary for the production of niacin (vitamin B3).
Best food sources of tryptophan: turkey, fish, meat, cottage cheese, milk, bananas, dried dates, peanuts, all protein-rich foods.
Foods for Depression: Special Recommendations
If you wish to become relax because you are nervous, eat more complex carbohydrates. Eat protein meals containing essential fatty acids for increased alertness. Salmon and white fish are good choices for increased alertness. If you need to boost your spirits, eat foods like salmon and turkey, which are rich in protein and tryptophan.
Foods for Depression: Foods to Avoid
Wheat gluten has been linked to depressive disorders and, as such, you should consider omitting wheat products from your diet.
Avoid artificial sweetener aspartame, which can block the formation of serotonin and cause headaches, insomnia, and depression in individuals who are already serotonin-deprived. Aspartame is found in diet sodas and other products.
Avoid foods high in saturated fats; the consumption of these fats found in meat or fried foods leads to sluggishness, fatigue, and slow thinking.
Avoid all forms of sugar, including normally "good" sweeteners such as honey. The increase energy supplied by these sugars, also known as simple carbohydrates is quickly followed by fatigue and depression.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.
Investigate the possibility that food allergies may be causing or contributing to your depression.
Foods for Depression: Final Note
While there is simply no denying that food and mood are connected, diet may be just one piece of the puzzle. Therefore, it's important that you seek professional medical help.