A slew of factors combine to give birth to depression. These factors include genetics, illness, hormones and periods of extreme stress. Food is the new variant in the equation leading to depression and in helping eliminate depression. It turns out that majority of the foods recommended as part of a healthy diet help keep our mind healthy too and a healthy mind can handle itself in a much more organized manner. Though these diet recommendations are in no way interchangeable or a replacement for mental therapy or medication, they can however, help you reduce the symptoms and effects of depression considerably. So if you’re last exams, college decision, work or family drama has left you mentally distressed enough to the point of being sick, make it appoint to incorporate these foods in your diet.
On the surface life of the 21st century looks centered on luxury, ease, glamour and socialization. The truth, however, is in stark contrast. The luxuries are forded by few, peace seems to be absent from every person’s life, glamour is limited to just social media pages of celebrities and people feel more lonely than ever. According to experts around the world the food we consume and its complex reactions in the body have a lot to do with the general depressing mood of our generation.
Fats are your friend
The good fats anyway. According to researchers, healthy fats like omega-3 found in nuts and fish is essential for brain growth, brain repair and healthy cognitive functioning. Various studies conducted over the past decade have revealed that people consuming fish regularly in their diet exhibited 17% lower risk of depression and fish supplements helped medication effect more quickly than compared to the control group who took a placebo pill.
This does not mean you can gorge on Hardees’ fish fillet twice in a day, there still needs to be a balance in your diet. As for nuts, seven almonds a day with breakfast should be everyone’s divine ritual nowadays. There is nothing almonds won’t solve from depression to hunger pangs to hair loss and eyesight loss. This nut is your new best friend. Another nut that is a savior is walnut. Sprinkle onto brownies, mix in your cereal, mix in your bread dough, walnut will never do you wrong and always help keep the brain healthy.
Make sure your carbs are ‘smart’
That’s right, not only does your phone need to be smart, your carbs need to follow the same protocol. Smart carbs are essentially complex carbs like whole grains that have a higher amount of fiber and lower fat content in them compared to simple carbs like sugar, cake, white bread etc. Carbohydrates are linked to the production of a mood-boosting natural chemical called serotonin and carbs craving has shown lower serotonin levels, hence, you need not cut carbs out of your life, just be smart about choosing them.
Oatmeal, barley, porridge and whole wheat are all examples of whole grains you can incorporate in your diet. Switch to whole-wheat flour instead of eating naan and kulcha with your dinners. Switch to brown rice instead of white rice.
No, alcohol does not come in this category. Fermented foods like yeast, kimchi are loaded with healthy probiotics that promote the growth of good bacteria in our digestive system. A healthy digestive system can work wonders in maintaining your mental health, scientists call it the “brain-gut axis” and have concuded that without a sufficient supply of good gut bacteria, your mood can suffer. Add a little bit of yeast when preparing dough for your rottis as well. The rotti will take on beautiful texture and you’ll stay healthy as well. (Tried and tested personally)
I know you’ve heard that a lot and even read it on dustbin lids but this time the message is more important than ever! The next time you plan on leaving the spinach in your plate remember that it is rich in folate, a water soluble Vitamin B. Low folate levels have been linked to depressive symptoms. The Academy of Nutrition and Diet announced that serotonin levels were shown to increase with indulgence in folate rich foods. So next time you’re feeling a little blue or off, ask your mom to make palak gosht aur palak paneer. On a diet? Make a salad with kale, celery, mint, spinach or any of the leafy greens.
Prefer your chocolate dark
Hmm, some people have a particular knack for dark things and if you’re one of them then it’s time you start eating your chocolate from the dark category too. All chocolates with more than 70% cocoa are even approved by the strictest dieticians. Chocolate is high in anti-oxidants and Cocoa beans contain flavonoids, plant-based nutrients that are powerful antioxidants and can improve mood. Other natural foods with the same chemical include tea, apples, berries and onions.
The key is in turkey
The natural form of Prozac is found in turkey meat in abundance. The amino acid, tryptophan, which is responsible for the post-Thanksgiving slumber is found in turkey meat. Our body uses this amino acid to produce the anti-depressant chemical serotonin. Never pass up any turkey sandwich next time folks! Dark chicken meat, duck and other forms of protein have this amino acid too so load up on protein when you need to feel energized and alert. Serotonin not only boosts mod, it also alerts the mind.
Banana, oh na na na!
Not only are bananas available throughout the year, they can be eaten in a variety of ways and they’ll always taste delicious. Pair the slices with a bowl of yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts: a perfect snack, make a shake, make a smoothie, a dessert with dark chocolate and you’ll never be disappointed by the calming effect of bananas. Bananas have an amino-acid tyrosine which manufactures dopamine, the so-called “happy hormone”. Dopamine controls the reward centers of our brain and low tyrosine levels have been linked to depressive moods. Next time the exam stress threatens to crush you, make a banana smoothie or top your favorite sundae with banana slices…yumm!!!
Salmon is your savior
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod are all fish that naturally contain Vitamin D. While a clear answer could not be found as to whether Vitamin D deficiency was a cause or a result of depression but it has been closely linked to the symptoms. Some researchers think that vitamin D has a vital role in helping convert tyrosine into dopamine and in encouraging the production of serotonin. These fish also help clear skin and promote liver health.
Make room for mushrooms in your plate
Mushrooms might not be the most visually appealing food but their benefits are countless. One of these benefits is that their properties oppose insulin and help in lowering blood sugar which in turn evens out your mood. Mushrooms are also probiotics and promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut which takes us back to the brain-gut axis and the cardinal function of a functioning and healthy digestive system in maintaining and repairing mental health. Make a sa lad with mushroom or make it a habit to add them to your eggs, beans or omelet in the breakfast.
Berries can make you merry
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries are loaded with anti-oxidants and cell-repairing nutrients. Anti-oxidants help flush out the toxins from our system and go about repairing and maintaining cells. In a study that lasted two years, the group that consumed berries as part of their daily diet had a considerably lower depression score than the control group; hence the motto berries can make you merry!