Major depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, with an estimated 17.3 million people reporting that they’ve experienced at least one or more major depressive episodes in their lives 1. For some individuals, depression can impair and interfere with their ability to carry out everyday responsibilities and participate in life’s many roles. With the stress of COVID-19 and its related effects, feelings of sadness and helplessness can be magnified by loss of routine and financial uncertainty. That’s why it’s now more important than ever to take care of one’s self by eating nutritiously.
Eating well doesn’t need to mean breaking the bank and buying everything organic. Eating nutritiously is more about enjoying a colorful diet with lean proteins, healthy fats and wholesome carbs. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that supports the benefits of a healthy diet. Proper nutrition helps with everything from cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer and mental health disorders, including – you guessed it – depression.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Eating healthy foods gives someone a better chance of reducing their depressive symptoms, rather than eating a diet of processed food that’s most likely high in sugars and fats, while being low in nutrients that our body and mind needs to function optimally.
The food we consume not only has an effect on our moods, but also helps to support our immune system as well, which is even more crucial considering the era that we’re all currently living through. It’s now widely accepted in medicine that the bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract provide essential benefits for proper immune balance 2. Additionally, according to a multitude of studies, a substantial amount of our dopamine and serotonin production actually occurs in the gut 3. Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters whose low levels are linked to depression and its symptoms.
SO, WHAT SHOULD I EAT?
Suggested foods to eat are lots of green leafy plants (including fruits and vegetables), whole unprocessed grains, seeds & nuts, and lean proteins such as yogurt or fish. To break them down even further, take note of the following foods and their purpose (all of which combat depression):
- Inflammation: berries, mushrooms , dark chocolate, cherries and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale
- Mood Boosting Omega’s: walnuts, chia seeds, flax, fish (salmon, tuna and sardines) and pasture-raised eggs
- Microbiome Health: foods that contain probiotics such as greek yogurt, sauerkraut and cottage cheese
- Triptophan/Serotonin: Tofu and soy, turkey and chicken, pineapple, seeds and nuts
- Antioxidants: goji berries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries have high antioxidant content. Other foods include sweet potato, oranges, and peppers. Remember a colorful diet 🙂
- Folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid 4: tomatoes, broccoli, wheat germ, spinach and Brussels sprouts
WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?
Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pastas, chips and white rice. It’s also a good idea to minimize the consumption of sugar-laden beverages, animal fats, processed meats, artificial food coloring/flavoring, fried foods and alcohol. These foods are said to create dampness in the body and mind, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and dampness leads to low energy and foggy thinking. Stress and toxic people aren’t conducive to health either.
OTHER ITEMS TO CONSIDER
It’s important to remember that health starts from within. Maintaining a healthy balance of self-care, such as providing yourself with adequate sleep, hydration and physical activity is just as important as eating well. There’s also a plethora of herbal medicines available that can help to support mental health. We just need to see you and ask a few questions to determine which is most appropriate for your current situation.
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