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Foods To Fight Depression

Updated on February 25, 2014

Curing depression through a gluten free diet high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Zinc

Low zinc levels and Vitamin D deficiencies have long been linked to depression. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential to your brain's health. Iron is necessary for optimum brain function. Trytophan is another necessary for serotonin production. Obviously you need to eat these foods to keep your brain healthy in the first place. But you must also be sure your body is able to absorp these nutrients. We all need healthy cell membranes to house our serotonin receptors, and that means a good level of HDL cholesterol. Look at a diet rich in 'brain foods' and be sure your body is absorping all the nutrients it needs by trying out these recipes and dietary guidelines for several months and see if you don't feel better! In fact, the foods listed here also appear on the list of top 10 foods to eat for beautiful hair and skin. They're just superfoods. Eat plently of them and everything will improve for you!

Walnuts Are High In Alpha Linolenic Acid
Walnuts Are High In Alpha Linolenic Acid

Alpha-Linolenic Acid

A specific form of Omega 3 Fatty Acid

Alpha-linolenic acid is a specific form of Omega 3 fatty acids that has been strongly linked to fight against depression.

Foods high in alpha-linolenic acid: flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans, soy oil, pumpkin seeds, perilla.

Sardines are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Sardines are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids help you maintain a healthy LDL / HDL ratio. You need this 'good' cholesterol to maintain healthy brain cells to house your serotonin receptors.

Foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Salmon (wild), Anchovies, Mackerel, Herring, Sardines

Olive oil is high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Olive oil should be consumed raw however: Don't use olive oil for cooking. The boiling point for olive oil is very low, which means you can easily destroy both its taste and nutritional value when heating it.

Mushrooms are high in B Complex Vitamins
Mushrooms are high in B Complex Vitamins

B Vitamins

Vitamin B1, Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), Vitamin B6

Foods generally high in B Vitamins: Mushrooms, Pumpkins, Green Peppers

Foods high in Vitamin B1: Sunflower seeds, Sesame Seeds, Brazil Nuts, Cashew Nuts, Almonds, Walnuts, Chickpeas

Foods high in Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): Avocados

Oatmeal is high in both Vitamins B1 and B6. Be careful to choose steel-cut oats or rolled oats rather than sugary, processed, 'instant' oatmeal. Along with oatmeal, brown rice is also high in both folic acid and vitamin B1.

Cod Liver Oil is the only source of active vitamin D3
Cod Liver Oil is the only source of active vitamin D3

Vitamin D

Converting the Inactive D2 to Vitamin D3

Our bodies produce the inactive vitamin, Vitamin D2. 10 minutes of sunshine per day will convert all the D2 needed to the active form of Vitamin D3. If you want to avoid sunshine (the unblocked UV rays needed to convert vitamin D2 to its active form of D3 can be cancer causing), you could eat Cod Liver Oil, which is one of the only foods to contain Vitamin D3.

The recommended dosage of Vitamin D is 400 IU (International Units), although you 1000 units (and even up to 5000) would give you optimum health. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so its best to be taken in supplement form with something like yogurt or a salad with an oil dressing.

Best Foods For Vitamin D: Cod Liver Oil, Fatty Fish (Atlantic Herring, Pickled Herring, Canned Wild-Caught Salmon, Mackerel, Oil-Packed Sardines, Oil-Packed Tuna), Oysters, Caviar, Fortified Soy (Tofu & Soy Milk), Eggs, Mushrooms

Broccoli has lots of folic acid.
Broccoli has lots of folic acid.

Folate

Also known as Folic Acid

Foods high in folate: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus

Chickpeas are high not only in folic acid, but also vitamin B1 (another key nutrient in the battle against depression). Brown rice is another food high in both vitamin B1 and folates.

Oranges have lots of flavonoids
Oranges have lots of flavonoids

Flavonoids

Also known as Antioxidants

Citrus fruits are high in flavonoids: Oranges, Grapefruits

HDL Cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein)

Necessary for serotonin receptors, and composing a large part of your brain itself.

Between 10% and 20% of your brain is composed of cholesterol and Vitamin D. Everyone is concerned with cholesterol it seems. We love how oatmeal 'removes cholesterol'. We watch our cholesterol levels, keeping them low. But, its been noted that people following low-cholesterol diets die less of heart disease, but are more like to commit suicide or suffer from depression. Really, we need to differentiate about cholesterol: not all cholesterols are the same!

Cholesterol gets carried around the body on both types of lipoproteins: LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins). You need this waxy substance to build your body's cells. Brain cell membranes contain the receptors for serotonin. Having those serotonin receptors perform at their best level is obvious for your happiness. So, it makes sense to have some cholesterol. The difference between LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol is how and where they take cholesterol. Low-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol to different organs and tissues. When we get too much cholesterol though, they keep circulating and eventually enter the blood vessel walls, building up and causing blockages and ultimately heart disease. High-density lipoproteins, however, circulate the blood stream scavenging excess cholesterol and taking it to the liver to be broken down.

Jay Kaplan, Ph.D., has been researching a connection between low cholesterol diets and depression and impulsivity. Through studies with monkeys and also analysis of men prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs for heart disease, Kaplan has definitely found a connection between low cholesterol levels and aggression, depression and impulsivity.

"Cholesterol is a major component of brain-cell membranes. Alterations in dietary cholesterol affect the fluidity and viscosity of the membranes, which house receptors for serotonin. So altering the condition of neuronal membranes may well alter the function of these serotonin receptors", explains Kaplan.

Foods that are good for maintaining a healthy HDL / LDL ratio (and won't potentially cause depression) include nuts (walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (flax seed, cod liver oil, fatty fish). Coincidental?

Tryptophan

Serotonin is composed of the amino acid tryptophan

Serotonine is composed of tryptophan, an amino acid. When your blood-glucose level is low, muscles and organs do not absorb amino acids. The brain has the most difficulty in absorbing tryptophan (out of the other 18 amino acids in protein). Glucose stimulates amino acid absorption by the muscles and organs, and therefore tryptophan absorption by the brain. In order to get the best absorption of your tryptophan, you should combine with a food containing glucose.

Is a Gluten Intolerance or Celiacs Disease Contributing To Your Depression?

Intolerance to gluten is not just a GI Condition

Many people are buying products that boast 'gluten free'. Most presume these to be more healthful meals, but they don't know whether or not they have a gluten intolerance. Some meats and vegetable dishes are labeled 'gluten free' this trend has gone so far. An intolerance to gluten (the most extreme intolerance are known as 'Celiac's Disease') is simply a body's inability to process wheat, rye and barley products. Although a whole grain diet is healthy, you need to be sure you can process these grains. Gluten-free does not mean 'healthier' . Many people do not have an intolerance to gluten, and so are wasting time and money by buying gluten-free products.

Celiac disease is when the immune system mistakenly attacks gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The immune system damages the small intestine by attacking gluten. This results in abdominal cramping and pain, bloating, gas, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Further, a damaged small intestine can't effectively absorb essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins your body needs.

Anemia, Vitamin B deficiencies, iron deficiencies and Vitamin D deficiencies are not only linked to gluten intolerance and celiac's disease, they're also linked to depression. While eating better, getting physical exercise and plenty of healthy sunshine, you also need to make sure your body is able to absorp and process these vitamins and minerals. You might consider following a gluten free diet and see if that helps your condition. It will take a while for any mental effects to occur. You will notice less abdominal pain, bloating and other digestive issues immediately however.

Pineapple Breakfast Sandwich
Pineapple Breakfast Sandwich

Pineapple Breakfast Sandwich

Start Your Day With A Citrusy Smile!

I found a recipe for this Pineapple Breakfast Sandwich on the Whole Foods Market website and think its another great one to banish the blues!

Here is the nutrition I calculated for a serving size of 2 pieces, using Udi's Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread and Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative. It's absolutely brimming with Vitamin C (33%) and gives you 21% of your recommended iron intake.

Dietary Fiber - 5.0g - 20%, Sugars - 10.5g, Protein - 10.5g, Vitamin A 0%, Vitamin C 33%, Calcium 8%, Iron 21%

* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Beet and Sardine Salad
Beet and Sardine Salad

Beet And Sardine Salad

Add Toasted Walnuts For Extra Flavor and More Happiness!

This Beet and Sardine Salad is full of food that helps you fight against depression. Sour cream, horseradish, dill, beets, vegetable oil, sardines.

I've added toasted walnuts to this ideal 'happy salad'! Why is this so great against depression?

B Vitamins are associated with positive moods and reduce the symptoms of mild depression. Adding walnuts or pecans to this salad not only ups the Omega 3 Fatty Acid content of this salad, it also adds B Vitamins.

Vitamin D - is well known to help against depression. Vitamin D improves serotonin levels. Serotonin is the same chemical many antidepressants act on.

Vitamin E - Vitamin E protects brain cell membranes from oxidative damage. Healthy brain cells are able to transmit nerve impulses. Good nerve impulse transmission translates into a good mood and more energy, both physical and mental.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids - The sardines are full of them!

Tryptophan (an Amino Acid) - The amino acid tryptophan encourages the production of Serotonin. Sardines contain super high amounts of tryptophan.

Supplements To Help Keep A Smile On Your Face - Be sure to get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin B Complex

Sometimes we're just too busy to eat right. Be sure you're getting enough happy vitamins by taking supplements.

Foods To Avoid If You Want To Cure Depression

Saturated Fats and Trans Fats - This raises LDL Cholesterol and also puts you at risk for heart disease.

Depression And Nutrition References

Sources Cited For Nutritional Information Related To Depression

Treating Depression With Omega-3: Encouraging Results from Largest Clinical Study - Science Daily, June 30, 2010

Is gluten making you depressed? - Psychology Today, James M. Greenblatt, M.D., May 24, 2011

Eating Sardines Can Help Reduce Depression, Ease Eczema And Make Baby Brainy! - Pharmiweb.com, Tracy Wright, August 27, 2010

D Day! How Sunshine Can Change Your Health. - Nicole Catanese, March 17, 2013

Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin D - Health A Licious Ness.com

Foods Causing Depression and Sleeplessness - Waisays

The Cholesterol Conundrum - Psychology Today, May 01, 1995

HDL Cholesterol: How To Boost Your 'Good' Cholesterol - Mayo Clinic

What is Serotonin? What does Serotonin Do? - Medical News Today, August 4, 2011

If you are, have you considered whether or not you have an intolerance to gluten? You don't necessarily need to have bloodwork and a small intestine biopsy to confirm gluten intolerance or Celiac's disease. Try adopting a gluten-free diet and see if you start to feel better. You'll notice gastrointestinal benefits way before any mental improvements, but its definitely worth a try. Would you consider trying a gluten-free diet to try to better your problems with depression, anxiety and attention-deficit issues?

Do you suffer from depression? - Are you on psychiatric medications for ADHD, ADD, Anxiety or Depression?

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    • greenmind profile image

      greenmind 4 years ago

      Absolutely true. Food is medicine.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      I am not on medication and I will never be,and I also don't suffer depression- but eating certain things for the sake of feeling better makes sense, and I constantly find more and more information everywhere about that. Evidently it's a subject of real importance.

    • Laura Schofield profile image
      Author

      Laura Schofield 4 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      @siobhanryan: Thank you! Its a work in progress, I'll be adding good happy food recipes as I find them! :)

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 4 years ago

      This is a superb lens for all of us who suffer from depression