Mon, 05/09/2022 - 13:29
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Depression and anxiety are rampant in our “modern society”. People are overworked, stressed to the gills, lonely… and on top of all that, bad things happen to good people. All the time.
So let me throw this caveat out there, if you believe you may need professional help… seek it out. Do not suffer in silence. Don’t try to tough it out. And… don’t throw home remedies at it alone. Nutrition is a very powerful tool that can absolutely help you improve all aspects of health, but if you are going through something severe or serious a 360 approach of self-care, diet, and medical intervention may be a necessity.
When it comes to nutrition there is no question that it has a very powerful effect on your mental health. When eating to improve mood and stave off depression the foods that are the most potent are the ones with the highest essential vitamins, minerals and Phyto molecules that keep the brain in top working order. These are the nutrients that protect the brain’s ability to grow and repair itself as well as facilitating the production of the key neurotransmitters. For example, neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, are associated with psychological functions such as fear, mood, pleasure, and joy and what we eat have a massive impact. Here is the hit list of what to focus on and why:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Recently, scientists found that societies that don't eat enough omega-3s may have higher rates of major depressive disorder. Other studies show that people who don't often eat fish, a rich source of these fatty acids, are more likely to have depression. As a double benefit, Omega-3s are good for your heart. Omega-3 fats are important in brain health and may be involved in the functioning of serotonin, a neurotransmitter important in the regulation of mood. The best foods sources are: walnuts, flax, chia, oysters, mussels, caviar, wild caught salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies.
Tryptophan, Selenium, Magnesium, Zinc
These essential amino acids that helps to create some of those key neurotransmitters mentioned above like serotonin. The ideal source for quantity and bioavailability would be clean organic animal protein in moderation like turkey, chicken, grass fed grass finished beef, wild game, eggs, wild caught fish, oysters, and yogurt. If you are vegan opt for nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds in particular) spinach, bananas, and fermented soy.
Folate / B9
Many studies have linked a deficiency in folate to depression. Folate inhibits overproduction of homocysteine, which restricts the production of important serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The best foods that are high in folate would be dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like: spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, asparagus, dandelion greens, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli.
Probiotic and Prebiotic Rich foods
The nerve cells in our gut manufacture 80 to 90 percent of our body’s serotonin so protecting our gut health is critical. Plus, when the microbes in our gut are imbalanced it can impact our ability to break down food properly and absorb the nutrients in them. So, you want to replenish these food based microbes with fermented foods like: kimchi, kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese, and miso. And you also want to eat prebiotic fiber rich foods. Prebiotics are foods that feed your microbes. Foods high in oligosaccharides (a powerful prebiotic fiber) are always an ideal choice: scallions, white onions, leek, garlic, kale, red cabbage, green cabbage, broccoli, and Jerusalem artichoke.
There is some research to show that our levels of vitamin D can impact cognitive function … and also that vitamin D [supplementation] may help improve symptoms of depression in people who already have a deficiency,
It’s well known that our best source of vitamin D is from direct sunlight, but now days many of us slather ourselves in sunscreen and hide from the sun. I myself am guilty of this. You can expose yourself to 15 minutes a day of sun on off peak hours (dawn and dusk). You can also take a d3 / k2 supplement. I take 5000mg a day, but talk to your doctor first of course. Moderate amounts of Vitamin D can be found in some wild fish (salmon, herring, and sardines) as well as mushrooms. Personally, I wouldn’t choose vitamin d “fortified” foods as a reliable source simply because you don’t need juice, processed soy, or processed grains in your diet and these tend to be the foods vitamin D is added to. Choose supplementation instead of this route.
This is kind of a weird heading I know. The foods listed here don’t fall under any one category above, but instead of have many of the aforementioned benefits and or others not listed above. Take a look:
70+% Dark chocolate or Cacao Nibs
Personally, to avoid all the excess sugar I usually just eat cacao nibs on yogurt or in smoothies for example. This one is a straight up powerhouse. There’s so much to say on this one that it could be an article unto itself. It does have tryptophan it it, but it also contains Phenylethylamine, which stimulates the release of dopamine. It's also loaded with other phytochemicals the are protect our neurons, decrease inflammation, increase alertness and the list goes on. This one is a winner, but do NOT overdo it on the actual chocolate bar and keep it at a minimum of 7p% cacao.
This one is tough because it’s literally the world’s most expensive spice. Some may not know how to incorporate it into their diet, and it can be hard to find. If you are so inclined, I recommend making saffron milk and having it after dinner at night. It’s easy, quick, and manageable. Why should you go to the trouble? Saffron’s mood boosting properties are irrefutable. It’s been utilized for literally thousands of years as a mood booster and current research overwhelmingly supports this finding.
Organic Green or Black Tea
These teas have been known to increase serotonin and dopamine production in the brain. Plus they contain an ingredient called L Theanine, which has been known to inhibit glutamate, a neurotransmitter associated with keeping us amped, while simultaneously increasing a neurotransmitter called GABA, which allows us to calm down.
Conversely, there are things to avoid that can absolutely work against you. Heavy metals and artificial sweeteners are top of the list. So go easy on the big predatory fish and cut out anything in a blue, yellow, or pink packet (aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin).
And, certain prescription drugs like cholesterol lowering medications can damage the nerves that make neurotransmitters. So, if you are taking medication and feel depressed be sure to speak with your doctor to see if your drug has any of these side effects. If it does, inquire as to whether there are other alternatives without this side effect.