What To Eat To Help Battle Depression

How a few changes to your daily routine can drastically improve your mood.

There have been numerous studies that suggest that eating a healthful diet can help improve the symptoms of depression and lift your mood. But how? Your brain is an energy hog and needs a lot of fuel to run correctly. Couple that with the fact that poor eating can make you feel sluggish, foggy headed, and irritable- symptoms similar to those of depression- and you can understand how proper nutrition can make a huge difference in your overall health and wellness.

So what do you need to know to choose the best foods for your body and mind? Generally, eat whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes and avoid refined foods, sugar, fried foods and foods with excess fat. It’s also a good practice to avoid caffeine and alcohol not only because they’re both linked to anxiety and panic attacks but because they can also interfere with antidepressants. Specifically, you’ll want to fill your diet with power-packed, depression-fighting foods such as:

Selenium- Found in whole grains, Brazil nuts, some seafood, and liver. Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods and other symptoms of depression.

Vitamin D- Found in fatty fish and most efficiently, through exposure to the sun. Low vitamin D levels are associated with various mood disorders including seasonal affective disorder.

Omega-3 fatty acids- Found in cold water fish, flaxseed, and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for proper brain function and help to preserve the brain’s nerve cells, keeping the brain working in peak performance.

Antioxidants- Vitamins such as E, C, and A (beta-carotene), found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as peppers, carrots, oranges, and greens, as well as green tea and dark chocolate. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals (damaged molecules) which can cause inflammation, premature aging, and cell death.

What if I can’t do it alone?

Changing the way you eat is no easy task. It takes a lot of work to plan out meals, shop differently, cook new foods, and adjust to different tastes. If it all sounds like too much to do on your own, that’s completely understandable. Luckily, you don’t have to. There are professionals that are available to help you change your diet to help decrease feelings of depression. Utilizing a nutrition coach or a health coach is a great way to get the most significant impact out of healthy eating. They’re professionals that can help you craft a diet, keep you accountable, and adapt your nutrition to your needs as your progress. They’re also great for suggesting recipes and helping you navigate food allergies or lifestyle changes such as pregnancy, going vegan, or running a marathon. If there is one thing to remember when depression rears its ugly head is that you’re not alone. Changing your diet can drastically improve your mood and finding a professional to assist in these changes is a great way to remember that you don’t have to go it alone.

Dr. Jeffrey Ditzell is a Psychiatrist in New York City and offers nutrition coaching in the New York City area.