This April 7th is World Health Day, marking the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This year the theme is depression. What better opportunity to focus on a health issue that concerns 120 million people worldwide, yet no one seems to want to talk about?
What is depression?
Depression is a whole-body condition that affects people of all ages and all walks of life. It influences our moods, thoughts and behavior. It has a direct effect on the way we eat and sleep, the way we feel about ourselves and the way we interact with the people around us – sometimes with devastating consequences. Understanding the nature of depression is the first step towards preventing and treating this common condition, and removing the associated stigma.
Are you depressed?
Being depressed is different from the occasional blues. It makes us want to withdraw and hide away from society. We lose interest in ordinary pleasures and activities. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, irritability, low productivity and feelings of low self-esteem. Depression may be triggered by stress or a traumatic life event, but can also be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain, thyroid disorders, nutritional deficiencies and poor diet.
The Food Mood Connection
Most of us easily understand the link between nutritional deficiencies and physical illness, but fewer are aware of the connection between nutrition and depression. It’s usually thought of it as strictly biochemical-based or emotionally-rooted, triggered by major stress or trauma.
Now the medical establishment is acknowledging that nutrition plays a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression and that food and mood are inextricably connected.
There are several nutritional imbalances that can make you prone to depression such as:
- Essential fats, do you need more Omega 3?
- Homocysteine, is it too high?
- Serotonin levels, do they need boosting with amino acids?
- Blood sugar balance
- Levels of the nutrients chromium and Vitamin D
- Food intolerances, could they be making you sad?
Yet there is still a strong trend among psychiatrists to treat depression with different types of drugs, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Side effects are common in all these medications, and for many people, these effects are unpleasant enough to make them stop taking the medication.
Eat your way to a better state of mind
Many people mistakenly think that depression comes from external sources – things that happen in our lives. While this is sometimes true, the reality is that what we eat and drink plays a key role in our mood and the way we see the world around us. Here are a few tips from a nutritionist to help ease depression and boost your mood
1. Eat some form of protein at each meal. This ensures you have plenty of tryptophan, the amino acid that is the raw material needed to make serotonin – the feel-good hormone.
2. Have a complex carbohydrate (with NO protein) three hours after your protein meal. This boosts tryptophan to your brain (a wholegrain cracker or baked potato before bed?).
3. Enhance your endorphin levels Reduce or eliminate refined sugar and “white” foods to minimize the dip in endorphins that comes with a hit of sugars.
4. Make life changes Include meditation, music, orgasm, yoga, prayer, dancing – things that evoke or support the production of your own endorphins in a steady and consistent way.
5. Avoid all forms of sugar (including normally ‘good’ sweeteners such as honey, molasses and fruit juice). They deplete mood-enhancing B vitamins.
6. And another reason to avoid all refined sugar is that it causes your blood glucose levels to plummet, resulting in a sugar hangover that disrupts your mood, depletes your energy, and is linked to sleep disorders.
7. Reduce or omit wheat products from your diet – wheat gluten has been linked to depressive disorders.
8. Avoid diet drinks and other products (like yogurt) that contain the artificial sweetener aspartame. This additive can block the formation of serotonin and cause headaches, insomnia and depression.
9. Light therapy can help. Exposure to the sun and bright light seem to regulate your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in preventing the blues.
10. Keep your mind active and get plenty of rest and regular exercise. Walking, swimming, or any activity that you enjoy is most important for alleviating depression.
A more natural way
Is depression an issue for you? Taking a closer look at your diet and lifestyle could be the answer and Foodwise can help you take control of your health. We have all the nutritional information and dietary advice to help address depression by correcting underlying nutritional imbalances and help you take control of your health. Get started now at: https://www.foodwise.life/program/energy-mood
A Mediterranean Mood-Boosting Lunch
It’s important to eat plenty of healthy complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables – balanced with some protein and healthy fats, to ensure you’re getting the necessary nutrients to keep your body and brain functioning at optimal level. This also helps keep your blood sugar levels balanced so you’ll be less likely to be tempted by the wrong kinds of food later.
This is a great way to get several servings of fiber-rich vegetables into your diet – along with good quality protein and essential fatty acids for energy and mood. Many restaurants offer salads similar to this one and you can make one at home in very little time.
Ingredients (serves 2)
4 handfuls leafy greens, washed
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
handful of chopped parsley
200g tuna in spring water, drained
1 cup green beans (cooked lightly)
Dressing 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, 45 ml cold pressed olive oil
Add-ons: Adding seeds (sunflower, flax, hemp) and nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews) can help boost the fiber, mineral and protein content of your salad. Enjoy with wholegrain crackers – preferably with seeds.