Depression affects many people, but numerous resources are available to fight daily symptoms. Your diet is one of the most powerful tools, depending on how you use it. Here’s how nutrition can help fight depression so you can start feeling better today and regain control of your mental health.
Healthy foods provide energy
When your depression flares, you might feel more exhausted than ever. It’s challenging to cook for yourself when you can’t get out of bed, so you might reach for processed, bagged foods instead. The increased sugar leads to higher insulin production, which causes blood sugar crashes that deplete your energy even more.
Stock your home with healthy foods to prepare for future bouts of depression. Reaching for a banana, granola bar or frozen cauliflower pizza will help you maintain your energy better than chips or candy.
Selenium restores natural depletion
Research shows that people with depression have naturally lower selenium levels due to how their brains function. You can help your mind by focusing on brain food that provides the selenium your brain needs to regulate your moods. Eat more seafood, meat and eggs to get more selenium in your daily diet.
Selenium in seafood also boosts your immune system, which may weaken when bouts of depression prevent you from making well-rounded meals. You’ll strengthen your body and mind with brain food like seafood in your weekly routine.
Vitamin D reduces depression symptoms
Another nutrient that helps people with depression is vitamin D. It’s commonly associated with sunshine because you can get it from spending time in the sun. However, you can also integrate it into your diet for extra mental health support.
A 2019 study, published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, found that when people with depression took vitamin D supplements, they experienced less powerful symptoms because it eased their oxidative stress. Depression can increase it, which causes neuroinflammation that intensifies symptoms.
Having whole foods with vitamin D in your home is a great way to help yourself when something triggers your depression. Your loved ones can also be a crucial resource. If they live with you or want to bring you food, mention your new diet additions so they understand why the nutrients are so important.
Providing your loved ones with ways to help ease your depression will empower them if they struggle to support you with a condition they don’t understand. Food can branch an existing divide in your relationships that often occurs when mental health misunderstandings keep people apart.
Omega-3 fatty acids fight mood disorders
You might not think of your central nervous system when considering ways to fight depression, but it’s a core part of your mental health. The nervous system includes every aspect of your brain and sends neural messages to various parts of your body.
Lipids comprise the central nervous system but can break down when someone is depressed. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids will reduce inflammation weakening your nerves so your brain can conduct messages to your body more effectively. You’ll find these acids in food like seafood, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Eating enjoyable foods produces dopamine
Enjoying your meals and snacks comes from a biological reaction to eating good food. Your brain releases dopamine when you eat, which is the feel-good hormone that makes depression less powerful. Research shows that the brain releases dopamine a second time when the food enters your stomach, so remembering to eat three meals a day when something triggers your depression is a great way to take care of yourself for multiple reasons.
Balance your favourite junk foods and desserts with healthy whole food to benefit from the extra dopamine and essential nutrients. It’s easy to give yourself a well-rounded diet without sacrificing occasional comfort foods.
Fight depression with your diet
Take care of yourself by eating more brain food. Improving nutrition helps fight depression by providing the essential nutrients your brain needs to regulate your moods and bodily functions. Consider adding these foods to your diet and you’ll have more tools to manage your mental health alongside recommendations from your doctor.
Mia Barnes is a health and wellness writer and the chief editor at Body+Mind. She especially enjoys writing about mental health, psychology, and healthy living.