The words ‘depression’ and ‘food’ in the same sentence tend to conjure up pictures of lonely people watching TV with a tub of ice cream and a box of tissues. However there is evidence that eating the right foods can actually help against the development or symptoms of depression. Here is our selection of foods to fight off the blues.
MACKEREL, SALMON, WALNUTS
Omega-3 oil, found in mackerel, salmon, tuna and walnuts has long been popular because it improves blood circulation, and reduces inflammation.
Omega-3 is also known to stimulate brain function, giving us a quick mental boost to help fight against depression.
WHOLE GRAINS, OATS, SWEET POTATOES
One major cause of mood swings, irritability and depression can be blood-sugar spikes. High fiber foods are great for smoothing out these lows and highs by releasing their energy slowly and steadily into the body.
Additionally they help clean out and regularise the digestive tracts, which adds to a greater sense of general health and well being.
High fiber foods also help the body to release serotonin, a natural feel-good chemical, and a natural enemy of depression. Whole grains, brown rice, oats and sweet potatoes are all good sources of fiber.
CARROTS, PEACHES, SPINACH
All through our lives our body produces free-radicals. These nasty little devils basically cause our bodies and minds to age and dysfunction. Antioxidants are what nature came up with to fight against free-radicals and make them harmless.
The three main sources of antioxidants are beta-carotene, and vitamins E and C, so they can be found in a vast number of foods. Sources of beta-carotene include apricots, carrots, broccoli, melon, peaches, pumpkin and spinach. Vitamin C of course can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes and peppers, while vitamin E comes from vegetable oils, margarine, nuts and seeds. Green tea is also famously full of antioxidants.
EGGS, OILY FISH, DAIRY PRODUCTS
There is a mass of evidence showing that vitamin D has a very strong effect on our moods. This can best be demonstrated by the flocking of people to the beaches in the summer, since the sun is our greatest source of vitamin D. Naturally, being in Ireland we need to find most of our vitamin D elsewhere, so supplements can help, as well as it being found in small amounts in eggs, oily fish, and dairy products supplemented with vitamin D.
CHICKEN, TURKEY, TUNA
Foods rich in protein – like chicken, turkey or tuna – contain a chemical called tryptophan, which stimulates serotonin production in the body. Serotonin, that good-old feel-good chemical gives a boost to the brain helping it to stay alert and concentrated, so a serving of protein-rich food is recommended daily, whether you are suffering from depression or not. Low-fat dairy products are also a good source of protein.
Of course, an awful lot of this is pure common sense. Food cannot ‘cure’ clinical depression, but food can have an enormous effect on our general health and well-being. So being careful about what we eat can at least help us to feel relaxed and full of energy, leaving our body and mind fortified and ready to help us through the difficult times.