- Mental Health
5 Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Be Linked to Mental Health Issues
What can we do to help take the edge off depression and protect our mental health? Our diets can play a surprisingly strong role in preserving or restoring mental health. So, let's talk about health food in terms of diet supporting mental health. We've found at least five nutrient deficiencies that can be linked to mental health issues.
Vitamin D is a Huge Nutrient
It's winter. Despite the parties, the glitter, the festive music, decorations, and gifts, depression strikes hard and often this season. There are many reasons for this — but a lot of it has to do with the shorter days. Outside of the summer months, we get fewer hours of immersion in the mood-lifting surroundings of the natural world.
In addition, low levels of vitamin D have long been linked to depression, and the issue is more serious when you're hunkering down inside and sun exposure is hard to come by. Because of changes in the skin, this need for vitamin D becomes even more urgent as we get older.
Seasonal Affective Disorder ("SAD") impacts serotonin, a key neurotransmitter involved in mood. The effect can be eased by testing and bolstering your intake of vitamin D. How much does this matter? According to the National Institutes of Health, low levels of vitamin D are connected to "clinically significant" symptoms of depression.
You Need Antioxidants in Your Life
It's a known fact: inflammation in the body manifests itself in depression. Inflammation may play a role in post-traumatic stress, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism as well.
Some factors that lead to inflammation are dietary. Oxidative stress and vitamin D deficiency are both well-known culprits.
To overcome oxidative stress, focus on antioxidant-rich foods. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables. Nuts can also ease symptoms of depression. Lower the refined carbs such as white bread and pasta (why not try replacing them with some popular, low-fat freezer-aisle offerings like riced cauliflower, for example, and spiral-cut vegetables?), and go easy on the sugars.
Olive oil may give you a boost as well. It has anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, older people in whose kitchens olive oil was a staple were depressed less frequently than their peers, by a significant margin. Don't go out of your way to add oil to your diet, but if you do use added fats, olive oil would likely be your best choice.
Omega-3 Fats are a Must
To boost your mental health, don't overlook these oily little gems, available at most any health food store or supplement aisle in the bigger grocery chains. It’s OK if you're not a fan of fish for dinner. Microalgae-derived DHA and EPA supplements are every bit as effective as fish oils. The fish eat microalgae so it's their own direct source of these brain-boosting fats.
Boosting the B Vitamins in Your Diet Can Improve Your Mind's Health
When blood levels of homocysteine are too high, Finnish researchers have been able to make a connection with vitamin B12 levels that are too low. Research also shows this can lead to serious depression. Folate, a nutrient you can also get in B supplements, has a solid connection to your mood.
Get those B supplements and try some nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy taste, in soups and chili. So, where's the folate? Spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and many other familiar foods!
Beans, Beans: The More You Eat the Better You Feel
A protein-rich black bean soup is a great source of tryptophan. This amino acid helps your body make serotonin to rein in the blues. An added benefit of beans is how they offer an excellent way to get protein without ingesting a lot of fat — given that too much weight doesn't help us feel better.
Now that we've opened a can of beans, let's pause a minute to discuss soybeans and depression. Soybean-based meals (such as tofu and vegetables served piping hot from a wok or skillet) are great depression fighters. But here it's the phytoestrogens, not the protein, that's the key reason. Estrogen may alleviate symptoms of depression in post-menopausal women, and create more sound, refreshing sleep.
A, 8-week Japanese trial showed that the amount of phytoestrogens called isoflavones in just one cup of soy milk helped postmenopausal women deal with depression effectively. The effect is so noticeable that it may even replace anti-depressants! So it might make sense to try some tofu or tempeh in your dining adventures to support your well-being.
Have you opted for therapy, medication or both? This is not advice to quit. Confer with your doctor; and, of course, never stop taking medication except with the guidance of your doctor.Yet addressing nutrient deficiencies to support mental health will be good for the body and mind alike. Consider trying them out and reinforcing any healthful habits you already have.
*Disclaimer: This article provides general information about medicine, health, and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this article, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.
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