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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

More by this author

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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Published on May 3, 2021

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

Anxiety is killing our mental energy. It is, after all, the leading mental health issue in our society today.  In 2017 alone, more than 284 million people experienced anxiety across the globe, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder globally.[1]

If you are asking the question, “how do I get over my anxiety?”, then this article is for you. I’ve put together a list of my top strategies to help you get over your anxiety. These are the same strategies that have worked for many of my clients over the years, and I think they can work for you too!

Anxiety is, in general terms, as uneasiness or nervousness about an undetermined outcome. Sometimes, this worry and uneasiness is quite excessive and goes from something that we can manage on our own to something for which we need professional help.  If your worry or apprehension includes panic attacks or compulsive behaviors, consider reaching out to a therapist or a doctor for more professional help.

I like to think of anxiety as information—a sign that something is off in your life. It could be a global pandemic, a challenge at work, instability in relationships, or the sign of a larger mental health issue.  Whatever it is, it’s good to think this through and be asking the questions that will help you uncover the parts of your life that could use some adjusting.

Again, consulting with a therapist or counselor, even just for a brief period of time, can help decipher some of these questions for you.  And if you want to give it a go on your own, well that takes us to the first of my five tips on how to get over anxiety.

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Here are 5 tips on how to get over anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

1. The Mighty Journal

You will be amazed by the power of journaling—the path of self-discovery it can lead you down. The best part of journaling is that there is no right or wrong here. It is a private place where you can work through the stuff in your head and figure some things out.

There are lots of formats for journaling, and I have personally changed my own approach several times depending on what was going on and what I was looking for.  It could be that narrative of your day or bullets with highlights or thoughts of the day.

To make the most out of your journaling I would encourage you to push yourself and go beyond a recount of the day’s events. What you really want here is to get into your thought process and understand the feelings behind the thoughts. Timelines can also be a great way to gain some understanding of relationships and the different events in your life. Again, it is a matter of what works for you.

The pen truly is mightier than. . . the meds?!? My own little psych-mashup.

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2. Schedule Your Self-Care Time

What are the ways you treat yourself? Life is busy and when life demands increase, self-care is often one of the first things to fall by the wayside. But it is critical that you build in your “you time” because when stress levels increase, so will anxiety.

If self-care is not something that you are accustomed to thinking about, I listed some ideas for you to consider.  Keep in mind that if you schedule it with someone else, it might help with accountability.

Think about working smaller chunks of time into the workweek and then something a little more extensive on the weekend, like a hike, excursion, creative home project, or even the occasional weekend away.

Self-care ideas:[2]

  • Take your lunchtime away from your desk, and get outside for a walk or join a colleague for some casual chitchat.
  • Schedule a massage or trip to the spa/salon.
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show, either on your own or with your favorite person/people.
  • Work out, inside or out—anything that gets your heart rate up.
  • Go on an evening or afternoon walk.
  • Tap into your creative outlet, break out that knitting, woodwork, artwork, or instrument.
  • Dance, at home with your kids, partner, or on your own.  Play your favorite tunes and do your thing!

You can also try these 40 Self Care Techniques To Rejuvenate And Restore Yourself.

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3. Listen to Your Music

Music speaks to our soul. It is a go-to for many of us when in need of a pick-me-up or just blowing off some steam. But sometimes, life gets busy, and we don’t incorporate it into our life the way we once did—finding ourselves in a music deficient rut, listening to the same boring stuff on the radio.

Let this be a reminder to explore the new music out there. Streaming services have revolutionized our access to music and have made it easier than ever before. Explore it and find your jam.

Additionally, music therapy is a growing form of therapy built on the research that it helps decrease pain, blood pressure, and—you guessed it—anxiety while also increasing mood, healing, and overall positivity.[3]

Medical Doctors are using it more and more in operating rooms and incorporating it into their practices. If you subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, you can just type in “relaxing music” and you will be sure to find something that will do the trick, bringing calm and focus into your life.  In my research for this article, I came across some great ones., and they are now a part of my daily rotation.

4. The Five Senses Exercise

When we experience heightened anxiety, I think of it as the physical energy rising from our feet to our head like a thermometer. Sometimes, this energy can even bring us to a place where we feel disconnected from our bodies. The 5 senses exercise will help you reconnect yourself to your body and bring your anxiety levels down to a more manageable level.

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The 5 senses exercise is a mindfulness exercise where you connect your 5 senses to your present environment. This is a great way to ground yourself and bring your attention and your energy to the here and now.  What I love about this exercise is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. If you start to feel your anxiety creep up, this could be a good strategy to center yourself and possibly ward off a panic attack or prolonged anxiety.

The process is simple:

  1. Start by taking a few deep breathes, inhaling as you count to 3, and then exhaling as you count to 3.
  2. Next, identify 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch and feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  3. Take it in, give yourself a few minutes.
  4. Repeat if needed, and carry on.

5. Mindset Matters

This last one is a big one. A lot of times, anxiety waxes and wanes with how we think about something. Be mindful of your negative self-talk, keeping it in check and working to incorporate perspective. If you know that you are headed into something challenging, prepare yourself for it mentally and allow yourself to be ok with the challenge. After all, the challenge helps us grow and develop.

Also, remember that life is full of choices—granted the options in front of us may be less than ideal, but remember that they are there.  Incorporating some of these above strategies could be one of the first choices you make to create change in your life and get a hold of the anxiety

A quick easy way to get some perspective is to acknowledge the things that you are grateful for (this is also a mindfulness practice).  The gratitude journal is one way to do this where you write down three to five things that you are grateful for every day. Try it out for a week or so and see how you feel. Of course, the more time you practice this, the more you will feel the benefits.

Summing It Up

Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time, working to identify the source of your anxiety will help you discover the best strategies for you. However, there are some definite best practices that you can incorporate into your life that are sure to minimize your anxiety and keep you living the active and fulfilling life you want.

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Fernando @cferdo via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Our World in Data: Mental Health
[2] NCBI: Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Assessment, and Treatment
[3] Harvard Health Publishing: How music can help you heal

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