Is your diet making you depressed? Best and worst foods for depression
- There is a scientific reason behind your diet affecting your emotions as there is a close association between our brain and GI tract. Here are best and worst foods for depression.
'We are what we eat', said German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach almost two centuries back. The context of his words may be different but the saying holds true even today as several scientific studies prove that a healthy diet can have a positive impact on one's mind and body, and our mood and personality are affected by what we eat. Consuming unhealthy and fast food is associated with increased risk of suffering from depression, a study published in Public Health Nutrition journal said. On the other hand, eating a nutritious and balanced diet is capable to significantly reduce your risk of developing depressive symptoms, as per another study.
There is a scientific reason behind your diet affecting your emotions as there is a close association between our brain and GI tract. When we eat well, there is a generation of healthy bacteria which further helps in generation of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine. No wonder, eating a nutritious diet can take care of those mood swings and complaints of 'feeling low.'
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"The distinctive linking between your diet and emotions tends to stem from the close association between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract, which is often termed as the second brain. Your GI tract is home to billions of microbes that impact the fabrication of neurotransmitters that carry messages from the gut to the brain. Consumption of wholesome food encourages the growth of good bacteria, which in turn positively affects the generation of these chemical substances. When neurotransmitter production is in good shape, your brain tends to receive these constructive messages loud and clear, and your emotions replicate it. When you switch to a diet of healthy food, you are setting yourself up for lesser mood fluxes, an overall happier outlook, and an enhanced ability to focus," says Dr. Siddhant Bhargava, Fitness and Nutritional Scientist & Co-Founder- Food Darzee.
A good nutrition is important to nourish your brain, improve your memory and manage brain related disorders like dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. When the food is not right, there is imbalance in the neurotransmitters which could lead to mood swings, low moods and unhealthy cravings.
"Our body depends on nutrition to produce the right number of neurotransmitters and hormones that make us feel good. Amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, oxytocin, etc, which are so important and the reason behind why we feel happy, sad, motivated, loved, intimate, aroused, etc," says Luke Coutinho, Holistic Lifestyle Coach - Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine and Founder of YouCare.
Foods to eat during depression
People with depression experience persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest in day-to-day activities, lose their appetite and face sleep troubles. Eating a nutrient-rich diet can help them be emotionally resilient and less vulnerable to the impact of stress and anxiety.
Dr. Bhargava and Coutinho recommend the following foods to combat depression.
1. Walnuts: "Walnuts tend to get an upper edge when it comes to easing signs of anxiety since they are also one of the richest sources of Omega-3 fatty acids that are known to support brain function and reducing depression symptoms," says Dr. Bhargava.
"Omega 3 rich foods – walnuts, flaxseeds, fatty fish like salmon (mercury-free), chia seeds. They help the brain build proper neural connections, form the protective layering for nerve cells, and create barriers that protect the nerves. These foods also have some neuroprotective compounds like folate, melatonin, vitamin E, and antioxidants, says Coutinho.
2. Beans: These are a great source of protein and fibre, both of which help to maintain blood sugar levels thus positively affecting our moods.
3. Fermented foods: Edibles like kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, are rich in probiotics that recover gut health and mood.
4. Complex and unrefined carbohydrates: Good carbs found in whole grains and vegetables can have a calming effect on our minds too. Carbohydrates are connected to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. This is precisely why deprivation diets like zero carb diets can leave you feeling moody and groggy.
5. Good quality dark chocolate: Rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and magnesium – a square or two of good quality dark chocolate can go a long way in uplifting your food. It’s a food of choice to restrain menopausal mood swings, PMS, and a potent aphrodisiac.
6. Coconut oil or ghee + turmeric + black pepper mix: A magic mix of turmeric with black pepper and 1 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil or ghee is beneficial in preventing brain disorders, improving cognition, memory, and building and repairing neutron activity and cells in the brain. It is highly anti-inflammatory in nature. Turmeric acts as a nootropic (smart drug) to enhance brain function, is therapeutic, and protects your brain from premature ageing. Curcumin, the ingredient found in this wonder spice, fights Alzheimer’s is anti-inflammatory and kills free radicals.
7. Selenium (brazil nuts, beans, legumes) and Zinc (whole grains, pumpkin seeds, oysters): These trace minerals also uplift mood by reducing inflammation, which is often at heightened levels when someone has a mood disorder, such as anxiety.
Foods to avoid during depression
While some edibles might ease symptoms, others may make them worse. The below mentioned foods are the key culprits that should be avoided, as per Dr. Bhargava.
1. Sugar-rich edibles: Sugars can make your symptoms worse by causing a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash that makes you feel exhausted and unhappy.
2. White bread: The highly processed white flour speedily turns to blood sugar after consumption, thus causing energy spikes that can be bad for anxiety.
3. Coffee: Caffeine is a component that makes you jittery and nervous, alongside messing with your sleep pattern and further can contribute to depression.
4. Avoid extreme dieting: Individuals with depression might have a tendency to go to extremes, and hence a well-designed and balanced diet should be a preferred approach, says Coutinho.