Recent evidence suggests that good nutrition is essential for our mental health and that a number of mental health conditions may be influenced by dietary factors. Food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Most serotonin – the happy-making neurotransmitter – is made in the gut, not the brain. Poor GI health could prevent its production, meaning you’ve got less of those good, happy chemicals in your brain.
Nutrition Feeds Your Mitochondria
You may remember from high-school biology that mitochondria are the “energy factories” of our cells.
Recent studies suggest that mitochondria play an important role in brain function and cognition — and that sub-optimal mitochondrion, and mitochondrial diseases, may contribute to mental disorders, including depression.
The brain uses nutrients to produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein that’s essential to the central nervous system.
The many physical benefits of maintaining a balanced, healthy diet are well-known. However, simple dietary tips can help to elevate mood, energy levels, and an overall sense of well-being. When you’re feeling depressed, or even negatively affected by a change in the seasons, knowing the right foods to eat can help you overcome those symptoms and keep depression at bay.
A balanced mood and feelings of well-being can be protected by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (fish, nuts, seeds, algae oil): Omega-3 fatty acids provide building blocks for healthy brain development and function, and thus have been explored for their potential role in preventing everything from ADHD to Alzheimer’s.
- B vitamins (meat, eggs, seafood, green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains): Studies have shown that a deficiency in B vitamins (particularly B12) can be linked to depression.Supplementing with B12, B6 and folic acid improved subjects’ response to antidepressant medication.
- Vitamin D (sun exposure; fortified breakfast cereals, bread, juices, milk): Vitamin D is required for brain development and function. Deficiency of this “sunshine vitamin” is sometimes associated with depression and other mood disorders.
- Selenium (Brazil nuts, walnuts, poultry): Selenium is an essential mineral, meaning we have to get it from food. Among its various roles, selenium works with other nutrients to create antioxidant balance in our body’s cells. Many studies have shown a link between low selenium and depression. One hypothesis is that selenium’s function as an antioxidant could be necessary for preventing or managing depression.
- Tryptophan ( turkey, beef, eggs, some dairy products, dark, leafy greens): An amino acid, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, Serotonin feel-good hormone so low tryptophan seems to trigger depressive symptoms in some people who have taken antidepressants.
Good Carbs to Boost Mood
Eating carbohydrates trigger your brain to release the mood-lifting neurotransmitter serotonin. So instead of trying to avoid them, eating the right kind of carbs can be a good choice when you’re feeling down. Stick to whole-grain bread and other healthy carbohydrates. Try to stay away from the sugary snack foods, and go for:
- Foods high in fibre
Tips for Healthy Brains
- Eat mostly plant food. Veggies and legumes are nutrient and fibre rich.
- Use plenty of herbs and spices. Particularly turmeric, cumin seed, flax seed, fennel seeds.
- Eat nuts-Contain lots of omega 3 fatty acid brain healthy fats.
- Eating for your gut. That is, managing the bacterial balance in your stomach and intestines — keep that second brain happy and healthy.
- Getting the right balance of protein. Proteins like egg white fish and lean meat and avoid highly processed meat products.
- Avoid sweeteners and additives. Again, highly processed food has been linked to poor mental health.
- Keep an eye on your blood sugar. This has all kinds of benefits and is never remiss.
Foods That Make You More Depressed
So many studies demonstrated that an increase in added sugars into diet was associated with an increased likelihood of depression. When blood glucose levels are elevated, levels of a protein that encourages the growth of neurons and synapses drops.
Avoiding refined sugar is another way to help your mood. Sugar may make you feel more energized at first, but it won’t take long for you to crash. Instead, stick with foods that will keep your blood sugar at an even level. Eating the following foods will give you a steady level of energy:
- lean protein
- complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains
- fruits and vegetables
Don’t think that just because sugar is out that artificial sweeteners will enable you can humour your sweet tooth without elevating your risk of depression. Aspartame, the common ingredient that’s found in products like diet soda, blocks the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. But it’s not just aspartame: NutraSweet or Equal may also be bad for your mental well-being.
Alcohol is a depressant, and more specifically, depresses the working order of the central nervous system. .” You may feel short-term relief, but these substances usually only make things worse. Alcohol and drugs throw off your sleep cycles and cause mood swings and anxiety. If you’re taking any prescription medications, alcohol and drugs can make you experience negative side effects, and they can even stop your medications from working.
Fried chicken, fried cheese sticks, french fries, these items cause trouble for your body for a variety of reasons and can increase your weight also. But there’s more: They’re also linked to depression. See, deep frying is usually done in partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation is a process that turns vegetable oil into a more solid form, which makes it a more shelf-stable product. Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially contribute to depression. Saturated fats, like the ones found in meats, high-fat dairy, and butter can clog arteries and prevent blood flow to the brain—and optimal brain function also.
Cheap and easy?. According to a 2012 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, people who eat fast food are 51 percent more likely to develop depression than those who don’t. To clarify: When we say fast food, we’re talking about pasta, pizza, burger and commercial baked goods. Eating a small portion of any one food is unlikely to raise depression risk, but if your intake is on regular basis, feeling of depression is there.
Trans fat is the name given to unsaturated fats that don’t usually occur in whole foods. Conversely, plenty of studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet, which traditionally utilizes olive oil rather than trans fats, can lower the risk of numerous health conditions, including depression.
Extra salt can hamper of your neurological system. Not only can this directly contribute to depression, but it can also hamper your immune system response and cause fatigue. And, of course, an excess of salt also leads to fluid retention salt can contribute to weight gain, resulting in a negative body image and depression even further.
Caffeine may be difficult for many people to completely eliminate from their diet. However, it is good to only have caffeinated drinks in moderation, particularly when you are experiencing depression-like symptoms. Caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns and make you feel anxious, both of which won’t help your depression. People who drink more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, the equivalent of four cups of brewed coffee, should consider cutting back.