Diet for Depression: How Eating Healthy can Improve Mental Health

Diet for Depression

At some point, life gets complicated for all of us, but not everyone bounces back to their same old self when the hard times pass. 

If the hard times are going on too long, you may be battling depression. Invisible illnesses are often hard to treat, but there are many different approaches. A new diet for depression, lifestyle changes, an exercise regimen, counseling, and antidepressants can help.

But sometimes, it’s easier said than done. If you’re thinking about addressing your diet to improve your mental health, you need to know some essential top tips. 

Read on to learn about the factors to consider and the types of diets that may help depression. 

Gut Health and Depression 

Although lifestyle factors often trigger depression, it’s caused by our brain. When we’re not producing enough ‘happy’ hormones, we’re likely to experience depression. 

Our gut has a direct connection to our brain. We have more than 100 million nerve cells that line our gut, many of which communicate with our brain. Therefore, to look after your brain, you must look after your gut.

Gut healthy foods include: 

  • Yogurt 
  • Sourdough
  • Almonds
  • Olive oil 
  • Miso 
  • Kefir

These are just some of the ‘super foods’ for gut health. If you eat a varied, plant-based diet, this is a great way to look after your gut. Whereas almost every other area of nutrition is contested, everyone agrees that a varied diet is best. 

Energy Levels and Depression 

Energy levels and depression go hand-in-hand. Feeling tired and drained is one of the main symptoms of depression, but it also contributes to the development of the illness. 

Your diet may be a significant factor causing low energy levels. Diets high in refined sugar can cause blood sugar to spike, creating energy highs and lows. Instead, it would help if you ate a varied diet rich in foods that release energy slowly. 

Foods that promote high energy levels include: 

  • Bananas 
  • Fatty fish
  • Coffee 
  • Brown rice 
  • Eggs
  • Dark chocolate

Eating a variety of foods that are low in sugar will help your energy levels. You should opt for wholegrain options wherever possible and feel free to enjoy the occasional bit of caffeine in coffee or dark chocolate. 

Nutrient Deficiencies and Depression 

If you don’t get adequate nutrition, it’s not uncommon to become depressed. Nutritional status can vary from slightly inadequate to life-changing deficiencies. 

When you’re writing a daily meal plan, you should always aim to include enough variety in your diet so that’ll you’ll get all the vitamins and minerals that you need. 

Although all nutrients are important, there are a few critical components you need to consider. 

Vitamin D and folate have a fundamental part to play in serotonin production (the happy hormone). Omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium are essential for brain cell function. Zinc helps regulate the body’s response to stress. Finally, B12 deficiency has been linked to advanced depression. 

Nutrition rich foods for improving mental health include: 

  • Egg yolks (vitamin D) 
  • Mushrooms (vitamin D)
  • Beans (folate)
  • Lentils (folate) 
  • Chia seeds (omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Mackerel (omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Meat (zinc)
  • Spinach (zinc)
  • Bananas (B12)
  • Legumes (B12)

If you eat a varied diet, chances are you’ll get all the nutrition you need. However, if you think there may be a problem, you should visit a doctor for a blood test to determine whether you have any deficiencies. 

Sleep Deprivation and Depression 

Sleep deprivation is another major player in the development of depression. Any sign of sleep disturbance should be an indicator that something in your lifestyle isn’t working. However, once depression develops, abnormal sleeping patterns often become a normal part of life. 

The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night; most only get 6.9 hours. Sleep is vital for energy levels; poor sleep can lead to fatigue, tension, and irritability. 

However, what many don’t realize is that the foods we eat and when we eat them impact our sleep quality. 

Foods to help you sleep well include: 

  • Passionflower tea
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Fatty fish
  • Kiwi

But more important than the types of food we eat is when we eat them. If you eat too close to bedtime, your body will still be working hard to digest the food while you sleep. 

This results in lower quality, disturbed sleep. It would be best if you aimed to eat a few hours before heading to bed to give your body a chance to process your food before bedtime. 

Know When to Get Extra Support

Managing your depression by starting a diet that promotes good health is a great start. However, many people need a combination of treatments for depression. 

Dealing with depression means addressing your biochemistry, genetics, personality traits, and environmental risk factors. Not all of this can be controlled by diet. 

It’s a good idea to see a professional alongside making dietary changes to make sure you’re getting the proper support that you need. Antidepressant medications are widely available, but it’s helpful to access a more multi-disciplinary plan when you’re treating depression. 

Depression is common, and it’s easy to overlook treatment, but taking steps towards long-term support is essential. It would help if you had personalized, tailored support, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. 

A Diet for Depression as a First-Line Treatment

If you’re battling with your mental health, a special diet for depression can help improve your symptoms. Eating a balanced, varied diet can do wonders for gut health, energy, nutritional deficiencies, and sleep. 

However, if you’d like some extra support, consider a tailored plan individualized to you and your illness. If you’re ready to start feeling better, contact us today to find out your options.

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