It’s easy to think about how food causes physical changes in our bodies, but how often do we think about how our diet affects our mental health?
A lot of what we eat is a highly processed version of the real deal. Health foods (granola bars, pre-packaged meals, and juices) can be even worse than the huge portions you get at your favorite restaurant due to dangerous additives.
So how does this all relate to depression? Well, what we put in our bodies has a bigger effect on our brains than you’d think. We need a certain amount of nutrients on a daily basis to stay healthy, and that doesn’t stop with mood. Processed or fast food options generally don’t contain these ingredients. Worse, they often contain ingredients you don’t need, like refined sugar (consider the spike and inevitable crash!), trans fats and artificial sweeteners – all of which have been linked to irritability, fatigue and risk of depression (here’s an interesting study). All of these can be added to food labels under a number of names, so you may not even know!
If you’ve ever heard people that switched to a healthier diet including real, whole foods, suddenly felt their moods lifted, it’s no coincidence. Besides avoiding processed foods and loads of sugar, be on the look out for nutrients that assist in regulating moods naturally. Here are a few:
The most obvious mood-booster, Vitamin D comes straight from the sun. If you get depressed during the winter time, you’re not alone! Unfortunately, most Americans live in regions that don’t get sun for long enough to benefit from this vitamin, so it’s important to get a healthy dose in your diet with foods like fish, or milk/juices fortified with it.
Studies have shown that Omega 3 fatty acids can act similarly to antidepressants when consumed at a regular, healthy level – without the harmful side effects. They can also be helpful for prevention… Those who take regular Omega 3s have been 30% less likely to develop symptoms of depression, according to this report.
Iodine is a micronutrient that over half of adults don’t get enough of. Deficiency can mean a range of health problems from thyroid issues to a higher risk of depression and even cancer. Research suggests hyperthyroid, a result of iodine deficiency, causes mood disorders. Eating foods containing iodine can help you get at the right levels, but too much can also cause problems with thyroid glands. It’s commonly found in ocean fish, seaweed and kelp.
The building blocks of muscle, some amino acids are produced by the body and others need to be obtained through diet with protein-rich foods. They assist in the creation of neurotransmitters, so not getting the right amount can lead to irregular levels of important neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, both of which play a role in mental health. To make sure you get enough, always get your recommended dosage of protein.
Have you noticed a change in mood depending on what you eat? I want to hear your stories!
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