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Published on January 29, 2021

Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid

Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid

According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally.[1]

Symptoms of depression can include sadness, lethargy and a general loss of interest in life.

There are a number of ways to combat this and a diet for depression can help not only your mental health but your well-being as well. In fact, a 2017 study found that the symptoms of people with moderate-to-severe depression improved when they received nutritional counseling sessions and ate a more healthful diet for 12 weeks.[2]

Just imagine having higher levels of optimism, energy, positivity, focus, and a greater interest in life. Well, you can.

Making some adjustments to your diet can help with your depression. Not only are there foods that you could eat to help with your depression but there are foods that you should avoid.

Foods That Help With Depression

1. Oily Fish

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, light tuna and mackerel are a healthy source of Vitamin D.[3] Research has shown that Vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.[4] Other health benefits include reducing fatigue and improving heart health.

If you run low on energy it can increase your chances of becoming irritable which could lead to a number of other negative behaviors. And this is not the emotional path that you want to go down, especially if you are struggling with depression.

We obtain most of our vitamin D from the sun but dietary sources are also important. Other sources include egg yolks, beef liver and fortified dairy products. When it comes to egg yolks, be sure to check the national label as there can be variances in the amount of Vitamin D.

2. Vegetables

It had to be said. Remember those days when you were told to eat your vegetables?

Well, turns out there was a very good reason. Eating vegetables can help if you struggle with depression.

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Darker leafy greens contain folate[5] and people that have depression have been found to have a lower dietary intake of folate than those without depression.[6]

They also contain vitamins A, C, E, and K. Which will supply you with a number of healthy benefits such as maintaining brain function and strengthening your immune system.

Injecting some spinach, kale or arugula into your diet could help improve your mood. If you’re not a fan of any of these then you can use lettuce, broccoli or asparagus.

3. Walnuts

Omega-3 fatty acids are a great source of protein to keep a healthy balance of blood sugar levels.[7]

They are also called essential fats, because unlike some other substances, they can’t be manufactured within the human body, and therefore it is essential that you take them in through your diet.

Walnuts are bursting with Omega-3 and they are commonly known to support brain health and lower blood pressure.

In fact, one study conducted between 2005-2014 found that depression scores came in 26% lower among those that consumed about ¼ cup of walnuts per day.[8]

As you can see, incorporating a source of Omega-3 like walnuts enhances a diet for depression.

4. Poultry

Chicken and Turkey are important for a number of reasons. Not only do they contain lean protein to maintain health but they also contain Tryptophan.[9]

The body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin [10] and serotonin.[11] Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin is thought to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain.

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You may have even experienced a healthy boost of melatonin levels, in the form of a nap, after you have eaten a turkey dinner.

And while you don’t have to eat a turkey dinner everyday, incorporating chicken or turkey into your routine can give you a healthy balance of rest and energy.

In fact, just 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast offers 123% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

Foods That Worsen Depression

When coping with depression, it’s important to be aware of foods that could have a negative impact on you. If you limit or, in some cases, eliminate these foods altogether you will increase your chances of feeling better.

5. Alcohol

It’s important to mention this because unfortunately a lot of people turn to alcohol when they are having a bad day. However, it is best to limit or eliminate alcohol altogether.

Alcohol is a depressant. When you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse.

This could lead you to make bad decisions that will further your depressive state.

Not too mention, the energy and effort that is put into drinking could be used to make healthy choices, like preparing a healthy meal.

To decrease your chances of drinking alcohol you could refrain from visiting the wine and spirits store, avoid the section in the grocery store that has alcohol, or put a halt to eating at places that serve alcoholic beverages.

It can be too easy to convince yourself that alcohol will fix everything, when in fact it could cause further damage.

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6. Sugar

An excess of sugary foods can have long-term implications on your health. And while it’s not realistic to eliminate sugar entirely, you should pay close attention to the amount of sugar you consume.

The American Heart Association recommends adults eat no more than 25 (women) to 36 (men) grams of added sugar every day.[12]

Foods like cakes, cookies and pies are high in sugar and can alter your mood. It may make you feel good temporarily but it’s just that, temporary.

Cutting back on sugar will help you keep your blood sugar levels more balanced which will help your mood stay more evenly balanced.

Since sugar offers very little nutritional value, it actually has a drastic impact on the B vitamins.[13] In order for the body to convert sugar into energy, it uses up these important mood enhancing vitamins. In particular vitamin B-12 and B6.[14]

When the body runs low on these vitamins it leads to a lack of energy and poor brain function. This makes it easier to slip into a more depressive state.

7. Fast Food

Refined foods like fast food burgers and fries are loaded with ingredients that should be avoided in your diet for depression.[15]

A study confirmed that the consumption of hamburgers, sausages, and pizza as well as muffins, donuts, and croissants may have a detrimental effect on depression risk.[16]

This is because these foods are high in trans-fat and trans-isomer fatty acids. And these are fatty acids that are non-essential to the human diet.

There is very little national value in these types of foods. You would be better served if you were to replace those foods with fresh fruits and vegetables.

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8. Caffeine

In some cases, eliminating caffeine might seem like an impossible and unrealistic task.

That’s why moderation is key, particularly when you are experiencing depression-like symptoms.

Caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns and make you feel anxious. Sleep deprivation can be a byproduct effect of caffeine which can lead you to feel irritable and exhausted, both of which do not compliment depression whatsoever.

It’s also easy to forget that caffeine is a psychoactive drug.[17] Which by definition means it changes mood, brain function and behavior. But because it’s legal and unregulated, roughly 90% of people in North America consume it daily

Replace your caffeinated drinks such as coffee or energy drink with a healthier option like green tea.

Bottom Line

Constructing a diet for depression can do wonders for your mind, body and spirit. As you can see, your body can be a direct reflection of the food that you’re putting into it.

Healthier, smarter choices will help you in the long run. And depending on what your eating habits are like right now, incorporating any of these foods into your diet may be a lot easier than you think.

A few tweaks to your daily routine may make all the difference for you. The clearer your mind is the better chance you have at improving your diet daily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

Featured photo credit: Markus Winkler via unsplash.com

Reference

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Tim Lekach

Father I Husband I Health & Wellness Entrepreneur

Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid 7 Actionable Tips to Sleep Better and Wake up Energized

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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

15 Meditation Benefits That Will Make You Successful

15 Meditation Benefits That Will Make You Successful

What could be better than reaching your big goals? Well, it turns out that meditation—something you could be doing daily, at no cost and with little effort—offers benefits that success can’t bring. Meditation benefits can seep into every area of your life and improve your overall wellbeing in the long-term.

Meditation as Mindfulness

The studies on meditation generally focus on a broad type of meditation that could be called mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means keeping one’s thoughts focused on awareness of a single thing or moment. It could be your breath (a typical point of focus in meditation), or it could be a single image, word, or emotion.

It sounds simple, but when you try it, you realize how much your mind wants to jump around. That’s okay: “When a ‘stray’ thought arises, the practitioner must be quick to recognize it, and then turn back to the focus of their attention,” says George Dvorsky, writing about meditation[1]. “And it doesn’t just have to be the breath; any single thought, like a mantra, will do.”

Here are 15 ways meditation benefits can improve your life, whether or not you ever reach those big goals.

1. Handle Stress Better

According to one source, “When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.”[2]

Much of our stress comes from too much input and a lack of time or tools in handling the input. We take in information and build emotions, and we get overloaded. Our brains don’t know what to handle first, so they just keep cycling through all the information.

Meditation helps your brain to let things slide away by simply giving it time to rest and meander through the information, bit by bit, letting go of what is unimportant.

2. Improve How Your Brain Functions

A 2012 study showed a brain process called gyrification happening more in people who meditate[3].

Gyrification is “the ‘folding’ of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster. Though the research did not prove this directly, scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.”

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If that’s not enough, there is also evidence from MRI scans that meditation can reinforce connections between brain cells. One study showed that meditation “may be associated with structural changes in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age related declines in cortical structure.”[4]

In other words, meditation may not only make your brain work better, but it might also slow down the aging process within the brain.

3. Get in Touch With Yourself

The busyness of modern life, along with the perpetual onslaught of media that tells us how we ought to look, feel, and behave, can leave us feeling detached from ourselves. It can be difficult to connect with our own values and emotions. We see standards put into place, and we want to meet those standards, so we pretend to be a certain way even when, perhaps, we are not.

Meditation benefits can help us with that. According to researcher Erika Carlson,[5]

“Mindfulness helps us to see our authentic selves in two ways: nonjudgmental observation, and attention. Nonjudgmental observation enables people to really get to know themselves without feeling any negative feelings.”

4. Improve Your Grades

Whether you’re a part-time student, a full-time student, or someone who just likes to take tests for fun, meditation can help you learn and retain what you learn.

One study[6] showed that mindfulness training resulted in “improved accuracy on the GRE and higher working memory capacity.” The researchers concluded that “the improvement could be explained, at least in part, by reduced mind wandering during the task.”

The researchers estimated that mindfulness training resulted in the equivalent of a 16 percentile-point boost on the GRE, on average.

5. Increase Productivity in High-Performance Situations

A study done in 2012 set participants up in a real-world multitasking situation. They had to do several activities that required various forms of input in a typical office setting, and they had to complete them all within 20 minutes.

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Some of the participants received mindfulness training, and some didn’t. Then, they tested them all again. “The only participants to show improvement,” reported the researchers, “were those who had received the mindfulness training.”[7]

Another study showed that “daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.”

Handling high-stress, high-performance situations like a pro could certainly be a handy skill to have, and it’s one that meditation benefits can help you cultivate. If you need more motivation to increase productivity, check out Lifehack’s free guide: Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

6. Appreciate Music More

Do you love but find yourself drifting off and missing out in the middle of a concert or show? Meditation can help you to stay tuned in and aware, one study showed[8].

The majority of the people in the “mindfulness groups” in the study said that the mindfulness task had “modified their listening experience by increasing their ability to focus on the music without distraction.”

7. Positive Effects Even When Not Meditating

Researchers have found that the way meditation helps your brain to work better is consistent, staying with you not just when you’re sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, but all the time. According to the research, “the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states.”[9]

The researchers point out that this may mean that the benefits of meditation are not specific to a task or certain stimulus (such as that cushion or a mantra) but are process-specific, meaning that they “may result in enduring changes in mental function.”

8. Reduce Isolation and Feel Connected

It’s strange that in the age of constant connectivity, isolation and loneliness can feel even more poignant. But it happens, and when that sense of isolation descends, it can be overwhelming.

However, meditation was shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in a study on older adults[10], and those who have been practicing transcendental meditation, even for a very short time, say that the practice of meditation provides a feeling of being connected and whole, a “fundamental level of unity”[11].

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9. Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Meditation can help you feel connected and handle stress, but what about an ongoing anxiety disorder? What about overwhelming negative feelings or that debilitating sense of depression?

Well, a study done on high school students showed that a mindfulness and meditation benefits could help a lot with both: students who stuck with a mindfulness program “exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program”[12].

10. Fight Disease and Stay Healthier

Meditation benefits can be useful for both the brain and body. Being able to handle stress better can reduce its impact on your body, which can decrease symptoms and physical aggravation of various health issues, including chronic pain.

A researcher at one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals[13] notes that “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.” Health benefits abound when you devote yourself to meditation.

11. Sleep Better

Let’s do a quick review: meditation can help you cope with stress better, help you know (and like) yourself more, and help you lessen anxiety and depression.

With those meditation benefits alone, it seems pretty likely that you’d be able to get a better night’s sleep. After all, if you can stop your brain from racing and your emotions from raging, you’ll be much more likely to drift off into sweet dreams. Research concurs[14]:

“Meditation practices influence brain functions, induce various intrinsic neural plasticity events, modulate autonomic, metabolic, endocrine, and immune functions and thus mediate global regulatory changes in various behavioral states including sleep.”

Guided meditations, especially, can help lull you into sleep, so give it a try today.

12. Help With Weight Loss

When a group of psychologists were asked to recommend a few strategies for reaching weight-loss goals, 7 out of 10 said meditation, or mindfulness training, would be beneficial[15].

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The popular meditation app, Headspace, notes that meditation can help you focus on mindful eating, which encourages you to eat when you’re hungry, not when you are stressed or upset[16]. When you develop this skill, it can help you lose weight the natural way, which is one of the most useful meditation benefits for many.

13. Make You a Better Friend

It makes sense that being able to know and accept yourself better might help you to know and accept others, as well. Other studies have also shown that meditation increases the “mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion”[17].

In other words, people who meditate tend to respond with more positive emotions rather than negative ones. They have a stronger sense of empathy and compassion for others, making them an overall better friend to others.

14. Increase Your Attention Span

Studies show that mindfulness training helps the brain to connect better. What that means for you is that your brain, after meditating, finds it easier to access and process information. Along with that, mindfulness trains your brain to release the information that’s not important, and quickly[18].

Therefore, meditation benefits help you get better at collecting information, processing it quickly, and discarding the stuff you don’t need. Doing that well is what allows you to keep your attention focused on the information and tasks in front of you.

15. Generate More Ideas

If you wish you could access the creative, idea-making part of your brain more easily, it’s time to quit stalling and start meditating. The “catch-and-release” nature of mindfulness, that ability to let a thought in and let it go, turns out to be very helpful for what one study calls “divergent thinking”[19].

The meditative practice helps your brain to be less judgmental and more accepting, while exercising less “top-down control and local competition.” Your brain opens up to new ideas and inputs, which, say the researchers, “facilitates jumping from one thought to another – as required in divergent thinking.”

The Bottom Line

Meditation benefits are wide-ranging and can have a positive impact on many areas of your life. Whether you’re looking to increase your focus, develop more compassion, or get healthier, meditation can help with it all, especially if you become a long-term meditator. To get started with meditation, find a local or online meditation program, check out this simple 5-minute guide.

More on Meditation Benefits

Featured photo credit: Darius Bashar via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gizmodo: The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better
[2] Mayo Clinic: Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress
[3] Science Daily: Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain
[4] Neuroreport.: Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
[5] HuffPost: Mindfulness Helps Us Understand Our True Personalities, Study Says
[6] APS: Brief Mindfulness Training May Boost Test Scores, Working Memory
[7] The New York Times: The Power of Concentration
[8] Psychology of Music: Mindfulness, attention, and flow during music listening: An empirical investigation
[9] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state
[10] Brain, Behavior, and Immunity: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial
[11] Medical News Today: Does meditation have benefits for mind and body?
[12] HuffPost: Mindfulness Programs In Schools Reduce Symptoms Of Depression Among Adolescents: Study
[13] Bloomberg: Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit
[14] Frontiers in Neurology: Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep
[15] Consumer Reports: Lose weight your way
[16] Headspace: Meditation for weight loss
[17] PLOS One: Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise
[18] The New York Times: Study Suggests Meditation Can Help Train Attention
[19] Frontiers in Psychology: Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking

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