While most people can readily understand the connection between nutrition and physical health, relatively few manage to make the same connection between nutrition and depression. Instead, depression is usually considered more of an emotionally based illness or a result of a biochemical imbalance in the brain. But nutrition can play a key role in managing both the initial onset and the duration of a bout of depression. It is now widely understood by the medical community that nutritional factors can and do affect human emotions and behaviour. There are several major nutritional deficiencies that can worsen the symptoms of depression. To avoid these deficiencies, make sure these food groups are part of your regular diet.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fats, or essential fatty acids, are substances that cannot be produced by the human body, so it is vital that you get them in your daily diet or by taking nutritional supplements. They are found in high concentrations in the brain and are important for brain function and memory. Omega-3 rich foods include cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and fresh tuna (not canned), as well as eggs, nuts, and leafy greens. There are two main types of omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. Current evidence suggests that EPA may be the most effective as a natural anti-depressant.
Carbohydrates have been found to profoundly affect mood and behaviour. Have you ever gotten moody or even angry when you were hungry, but then you eat something sweet and feel better very quickly? Most of us have experienced that before. It’s because carbohydrate rich foods aid in the production of serotonin and tryptophan in the brain, promoting a feeling of overall well-being. Your body is also in need of fuel at these times, and carbohydrates are quickly converted to fuel by the body. Eating a carbohydrate rich meal prompts the release of insulin in the body that helps allow blood sugar to enter cells where it can be used for energy. It is best to consume carbohydrates from minimally processed whole foods such as low-glycaemic fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, the essential building blocks of life. The human body can produce certain amino acids on its own, but the remaining essential amino acids must be supplied through diet. Protein rich foods include meats, beans, milk and dairy products, and eggs. A protein deficiency can adversely affect brain function and emotional health because neurotransmitters in the brain are created from amino acids. If there is a shortage of these amino acids, the body will be unable to produce enough neurotransmitters, causing low mood and lethargy.
Unfortunately, there is no one specific diet plan that is proven to completely eliminate all depression symptoms. Still, it is possible to lessen many symptoms of depression through diet and nutrition. While no diet will ease all symptoms, proper nutrition and a healthy diet may be a helpful addition to your overall treatment plan.