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Sadness, anger, and grief are human emotions that are a regular part of life. Most people can experience these feelings, knowing that they are temporary, and look forward to happier days.
For others, however, depression brings about many of the same emotions, and it is very difficult to control or alleviate. Depression is classified as a mood disorder that brings about long-lasting symptoms of deep sadness, anger, frustration, and lack of energy. When left untreated, depression can lead to conditions that threaten the very survival of the one suffering; intervention must be swift and efficient to help alleviate some of the despondent feelings that "nothing will ever change".
A diagnosis of depression can be a life-altering event for someone, but it doesn't have to be a life sentence. Studies have recently shown that there are clear links to the type of food you eat and how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally. A recent study completed in 2017 indicated that participants suffering from moderate to severe depression, when subjected to nutritional counseling and a healthful diet over a 12-week period of time, showed marked improvements in their mood, emotional state, and activity levels.
It seems that there is a link to food and mood; with this scientifically proven data in mind, shouldn't we all be a bit more discriminating when it comes to the type of food we choose to eat? Sure, that cheeseburger may look good, but what is it doing to your brain chemistry in the long run? Following the 80/20 rule when it comes to consuming a healthy diet (and the occasional treat) will set you up for whole brain, whole body success. Whether you suffer from depression or not, consider incorporating these foods into your diet for a boost in your mood and productivity:
It may seem like a strange food to start this list with, but researchers at the University of Cincinnati sing the praises of oysters and their mood-altering benefits. Oysters and other seafood are rich in zinc, which is a powerful mineral that helps promote mental clarity, brain function, and overall brain health. When neurons are firing correctly, your whole brain works more efficiently to balance hormones and body chemistry that contributes to better mental health.
Thanks to their rich vitamin-C and polyphenol content, blueberries rise to the top of the fruit bowl for what they can offer our health. These antioxidants can help protect brain cells from free radical damage that contributes to the breakdown of neurological pathways. Add blueberries to salads, snack on them for a mood booster throughout the day, or incorporate them into smoothies to get back on track with respect to your mental health.
Research consistently shows that there is an intimate connection between gut health and brain function. Fermented foods can dramatically improve gut health by balancing good versus bad bacteria in the microbiome. Fermented foods rich in beneficial bacteria include kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, tamari, tempeh, and yogurt. They do have an acquired taste; safeguard your children and start them off with a taste of these powerful fermented foods while young, and they will gravitate toward these gut-busting superfoods later on in life.
Salmon is a delicious fish that provides a double dose of brain and mental health benefits; omega-3's present in salmon are linked to brain health, while large amounts of vitamin D provide an all-natural mood booster that helps combat feelings of sadness. Incorporating 2 4-oz servings weekly into your diet will help battle the onset of depression symptoms.
Because of their extremely high nutrient content, leafy greens continue to be one of the most effective foods for combating depression. Greens such as spinach, kale, collards, and cabbage are high in beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C and vitamin E. 5 to 7 cups a week are recommended; you can incorporate them into your diet in a variety of ways, including:
Walnuts are already great for heart health, and thanks to high vitamin E and antioxidant concentrations, they are also great for improving brain health and function. A study done on 26,000 Americans points to a decreased risk for depressive symptoms in those who consumed walnuts regularly. Nuts are excellent snacks that can be conveniently eaten on the go, and they are delicious in salads, as a topping for main dishes, and used in baked goods. As little as an ounce daily has marked benefits on body and brain health.
When you begin to eat mindfully, choosing foods that are beneficial to body and brain health, you can see and feel a difference in the way your body performs for you. Eating servings of these delicious and nutritious foods will provide you with all of the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal mental health. Bon Appetit!