Depression and anxiety affect large proportions of modern society. Depression is characterised by low mood, lack of motivation, anxiety, loss of appetite, uncontrollable crying, reduced enjoyment in activities and hobbies. Depression and anxiety may result from psychological issues and biochemical or physiological imbalances outlined below. It can also be due to missing nutrients. Any of these three can affect the body’s serotonin levels which may impact on mood. Depressed people also tend to have higher than normal levels of stress hormones.
Below are some nutritional ways to help boost your body’s ability to function efficiently and which may help to keep depression at bay.
Serotonin, which is referred to as the brains own mood elevating and tranquilising drug, is made in the body and brain from an amino acid 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan (5-HTP), which is made from amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan can be found in many protein rich foods such as meat, fish, beans and eggs.
Consuming foods that are high in tryptophan along with foods high in complex carbohydrates will help enhance the absorption of tryptophan. Carbohydrates may also boost serotonin activity in the brain. Sources of complex carbohydrates: brown rice, potatoes, pasta, wheat, wholegrain cereal, wholemeal breads, lentils.
Some meal ideals that are high in tryptophan:-
- Oat porridge, soya milk with nuts and seeds
- Two scrambled eggs
- Baked sweet potato with cottage cheese
- Tuna salad
- Chicken breast, new potatoes and green beans
- Wholewheat spaghetti with bean, tofu or meat sauce
Essential fatty acids (omega 3 & 6)
The richest dietary source is from fish, specifically carnivorous cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Surveys have shown that the more fish a country eats the lower is their incidence of depression. There’s a type of omega 3 fat called EPA which seems to be the most potent natural anti-depressant. These essential fatty acids can also be found in nuts, seeds, flaxseeds, linseeds and flaxseed oil. Essential fatty acids also support stress hormones and assist balancing blood sugars which will also support mood.
B vitamins play a major role in maintaining proper brain chemistry. Deficiencies are common in depression particularly folic acid and vitamin B6. Lack of vitamin B also may cause fatigue and a diet high in sugary, refined products will deplete vitamin B in the body.
Good sources: Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach and broccoli) and whole grains (Oats, brown rice, chickpeas).
Magnesium is a mineral that may ease symptoms of depression by acting as a muscle relaxant.
Good sources of magnesium: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, oysters, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, amaranth, buckwheat, avocados, quinoa, almonds, barley.
Balancing blood sugar
There is a direct link between mood and blood sugar balance. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose and your brain runs on glucose. The more uneven your blood sugar supply the more uneven your mood.
Chromium is vital for keeping blood sugar levels stable because insulin, which clears glucose from the blood, can't work properly without it. In fact it turns out that just supplying proper levels of chromium to certain depressed patients can make a big difference.
Good sources of chromium: Beef, Liver, Eggs, Chicken, Oysters, Wheat germ, Green peppers, Apples, Bananas, Spinach.
Black pepper, butter, and molasses are also good sources of chromium, but they are normally consumed only in small amounts.
A lack of Zinc may effect both depression and loss of appetite. Zinc is necessary for production of serotonin and also for taste. Zinc can be found in nuts, seeds, beans and lentils and wholegrains.
Consider possible food intolerances which may prevent nutrition absorption. Wheat, dairy and eggs. These affect digestion and reduce uptake of nutrients (as mentioned) which aid mood.
An under-active thyroid may contribute to depression and anxiety. Thyroxine is needed by all cells and especially the brain. A simple temperature test called the ‘Basal Body Temperature’ test can be taken to check if the body’s temperature is too low. Support Thyroid: exercise, thyroxine, multi-minerals, (Zinc, Selenium and Iodine).
Also worth mentioning
Foods like raw cacao, dark molasses and brazil nuts (high in selenium) are also excellent for boosting brain function and eliminating depression. Get raw cacao and Brazil nuts at Nature's First Law. Another source for cacao is Navitas Naturals.