In June 2020, depression and anxiety across America tripled from the same period last year, the CDC reports. The knee jerk reaction causes a pill to burst too often. What if we looked more methodically at food to promote internal homeostasis? Eating healthier foods can improve symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and nausea, says psychiatrist Leela Magavi. Feeling more alert and energetic can lead to other mood-enhancing behaviors such as exercise and self-care. In addition, a growing body of research suggests that certain nutrients can help contain feelings of anxiety and curb depression.
Fatten up your diet
People who follow a Mediterranean diet – rich in omega-3 rich fish, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, but low in meat and dairy products – are the least likely to develop anxiety. Healthy fats lower inflammation (linked to depressive symptoms) and increase the production of a certain brain protein (BDNF) that affects neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to make new connections and communicate effectively, says Jody Bergeron, RN.
Try it: Eat oily fish, flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and avocados, or take an EPA and DHA supplement for up to 2,000 milligrams of omega-3s per day.
Twelve important vitamins and minerals – including iron, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B6 and 12 – help prevent and treat depressive disorders. An international meta-analysis concluded that inclusion of a full spectrum (30+) can alleviate mood dysregulation, ADHD, aggression, and anxiety. Your gut and brain have a direct line of communication so micronutrients affect inflammation levels and mood, Bergeron says. Vegetables and whole grains keep your gut microbiome diverse and healthy – necessary because almost 90 percent of the happiness hormone serotonin is produced in the GI tract, she adds.
Try it: Load up on leafy vegetables, fresh herbs, whole grains (oats, farro, wild rice), quinoa, beans, nuts, cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage), berries and other colorful products every day. Also, get more probiotic foods like miso, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt.
Throw away the sugar to help ease the depression
Men who consume high amounts of sugar are almost a quarter more likely to develop anxiety or depression over five years, while the low-sugar DASH diet helps older adults fight off depression. Too much sweet stuff creates insulin resistance, which increases inflammation and releases chronic stress hormones, explains Magavi. Higher glucose levels slow the growth of brain cells and decrease overall connectivity.
Try it: Reduce the added sugar, at least to the recommended daily allowance of 6 percent of the daily calories.
The nutritional plan to boost mood and fight depression
Breakfast: Green tea, half a grapefruit, an omelette with sautéed vegetables, fresh herbs, a small amount of cheese and olive oil, and a side of wholemeal toast.
Morning snack: Cottage cheese and blueberries topped with honey-crunch wheat germ.
Having lunch: Mexican bowl with black beans, farro, corn, red cabbage, leafy vegetables, avocado, salsa and cheese.
Afternoon snack: A few squares of 60 percent dark chocolate with almonds.
Dinner: Fried wild sockeye salmon or steamed mussels with a side dish of brown rice and steamed asparagus or broccoli.
Dessert: Simple Greek yogurt with berries and whole grain muesli.
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