If, like many of us, you have over indulged a tad during the lockdown, it may have left you feeling a bit ‘blah’. Lack of energy and motivation is one of the biggest problems with depression. Luckily changes in your diet can significantly affect your mood via the actions of neurotransmitters in your brain. By following an anti-depressing diet it can start to boost your ability to produce‘feel good hormones’.
These are the brain chemicals, which guide how we are feeling. Neurotransmitters like serotonin help us to relax, while dopamine can help us feel more focused. The foods we eat provide the building blocks for these chemicals, as our brains extract the nutrients necessary.
Eliminating processed foods and alcohol should be the No. 1 priority. These processed, sugary foods cause a spike in blood sugar, causing your insulin levels to rise, which controls the levels and activity of your stress hormones. So if constantly eating processed foods, your insulin levels will remain high and you’ll end up on a hormonal roller coaster all day causing you to feel irritable, anxious and moody.
A study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition found that a diet filled with junk food is associated with poor overall mental health, such as chronic depression, anxiety, and other forms of psychological distress, making the case that our mood truly depends on our food.
Here’s a breakdown of the best foods you need to incorporate into your diet.
Feed your brain and body with nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables that are packed with phytochemicals, which promote health and decrease inflammation in the body. Fruit and veggies are high in folate, which for example promotes the brains metabolic processes and research shows that a folate deficiency can lead to depressive symptoms.
Top folate foods: Spinach, Asparagus, Avocado, Beetroot and Broccoli
Your body also needs antioxidant food to combat the bio chemical change when you’re under stress.
Top antioxidant foods: Blueberries, Goji Berries, Blackberries, Cranberries and Artichoke.
Fat is important fuel for your brain and entire nervous system, as they help to keep hormones balanced and inflammation levels low. They also provide important vitamins and minerals that boost energy and mood.
The healthiest fats will always come from whole foods such as: Avocados, grass-fed butter like Kerry gold, coconut oil, extra virgin Olive oil, Olives and Omega 3 nuts and seeds.
Salmon, Mackerel (Essential Fatty Acids) – help to control inflammation in the body and are essential component of cell membranes.
Eating Protein is critical for supporting neurological function and balancing hormones. The body uses protein called Tryptophan to create serotonin, the “feel good” hormone.
Foods which are high in Tryptophan include: Nuts and seeds, Chicken and Turkey, shellfish, Beans and Lentils, Eggs, Lamb, Beef and Cheese.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help support good health. These friendly bugs are involved in a range of functions including producing mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in regulating our mood.
Some of the top probiotic foods to include in your diet: Plain full fat Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Kombucha.
Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body and affects brain function, which is why a deficiency is linked to an increased risk of mood disorders. Fortunately, incorporating a good variety of vitamin D rich foods into your diet can cut the risk of deficiency.
Here are a few of the top sources: Cod Liver Oil, Wild caught Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Tuna fish, Eggs, Beef Liver and Mushrooms.
Adaptogens are mainly plants and herbs that contain bioactive compounds that can also support your brain. Adaptogenic herbs increase your resilience to physical and mental stress. They can calm you down, or increase your energy, depending on what your body needs. They help the body normalize itself and reach a state of physical and mental balance.
Some of my favourite adaptogens are: Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Schisandra and Holy Basil. Always speak with a healthcare professional when looking to embark on a supplementation programme.
When it comes to health, each body is unique but a good start is by getting healthy foods in to ensure we have the building blocks available to us.
Also being outside and exercising boosts your serotonin levels, something our quarantine-selves will appreciate. Our bodies have an innate wisdom to heal, we have to tap into that, so have a go at implementing some of these diet and lifestyle tips that are really going to make a huge difference to your health and happiness.
If you would like further information or to have a one-to-one nutritional consultation please contact me on Sandra@nurturewithin.ie I’d be happy to help in any way that I can.
Let food be thy medicine Hippocrates
Sandra has recently joined the Dublin Wellbeing Centre and previously worked in the Dublin Wellness Centre.
She offers Herbalist Signature Facial, Back, Neck and Shoulders Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Pregnancy Massage, Holistic Massage, Reiki and Reflexology.