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Are you depressed?

health and fitness Updated: Jul 17, 2013 18:08 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Hindustan Times
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I am a businessman. I feel miserable and unmotivated most of the time. I experience low energy and an unwillingness to exercise. Can you suggest food items that I can eat to get over this state?

You may feel glum, disappointed and even heartbroken for a number of reasons. But it depends on how you handle it.

Clinical depression is a state where a person loses interest in everything, becomes lethargic, restless and suffers from insomnia or hypersomnia. He/she loses concentration, overeats or eats too little, and develops an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. It affects the person’s behaviour, mood and thought processes, and the way he/she reacts to the people around.

What we eat plays a crucial role in our moods, emotions and mental state. Diet greatly influences the brain’s behaviour. The level of brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, which regulate our behaviour and are closely linked to mood, are controlled by what we eat. While depression is not caused by just one factor, eating well is a positive step in the right direction. Serotonin plays a role with regards to mood, sleep, relaxation and appetite. Dopamine and norepinephrine play a role in hunger, thirst, digestion, blood pressure regulation, heart rate, respiration, thermoregulation and aggression.

Mood-boosting foods:
Magnesium: This mineral helps in the production of serotonin. Major sources of magnesium are fish, banana, almonds, brown rice, leafy vegetables and most pulses.
Carbohydrates: Foods rich in carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, pastas, bread, idlis and pulses, help to build up brain chemicals such as serotonin. High levels of serotonin promotes a feeling of well-being and satiety.
Omega 3: These are healthy fatty acids that help in balancing the levels of serotonin. The sources of omega 3 are mackerel, salmon, sardines, flaxseeds and walnuts.
Vitamins and minerals: Research shows that if you are deficient in thiamine and riboflavin (B1 and B2), it may lead to depression. Low levels of folic acid and zinc are found in depressed people. Vitamin B seems to have a particularly beneficial effect on depression. Certain minerals like calcium and magnesium have a beneficial and calming effect on stressed individuals. The mineral chromium normalises sugar metabolism and prevents hypoglycemia and bouts of depression.

Ways to avoid depression:
Avoid alcohol: It precipitates hypoglycemia and causes further depression.
Avoid deep fried foods: They get digested slowly and lead to sluggishness, depression and lack of mental alertness.
Exercise: It is an excellent antidote for depression. Vigorous exercise makes your brain produce endorphins, which cause a natural high and help fight depression.
Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight or just bright light helps the body to regulate its production of melatonin, which is a hormone responsible for preventing depression.
Be positive: Keep yourself occupied and take adequate rest as it can help fight depression better. An optimistic attitude makes people happier and in turn healthier.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.