1 in 10 people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives2. In fact, some researchers believe that that everyone will be impacted by depression at some point, whether that is their own or someone they know4. I find these figures frightening! If we are all affected by depression somehow, then it becomes normal, and it is not! Our bodies are not designed to be depressed, quite the opposite in fact. We are meant to be happy, thriving beings that are able to cope with the struggles that life brings. Instead of turning to conventional medicine for answers, we need to turn to the “farmacy”. The foods that provide protective factors against depression and can alleviate the symptoms to help reduce the number of people affected by the illness.
More and more research is demonstrating that nutrient-rich food can and does reduce depression levels. This is creating more pressure for doctors and psychiatrists to look to food to lift mood rather than relying solely on SSRIs or other antidepressants. We cannot, however, simply rely on conventional wisdom for our health. We need to take control of our lives, do our own research, and truly accept that the mind is heavily impacted by food choice, just like the body.
The dietary choices we make can literally protect us from becoming depressed and/or help to alleviate depressive symptoms, or they can do the opposite and increase the likelihood of us experiencing depression. Food is readily available and does not have to be prescribed. You simply have to make the right choices and you can experience both the physical and emotional benefits.
Studies show that people who feel depressed may do so because of certain nutrients lacking in their diet3. Specifically, eating foods that are high in tryptophan, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate can increase happiness because they increase serotonin and dopamine levels. Research has indicated that lower levels of serotonin increase depressive symptoms and that dopamine has a direct effect on thoughts and feelings1. Thus, those who consume foods containing these serotonin and dopamine producing nutrients will have lower rates of depression when compared to people who do not eat such foods.
So what foods contain these nutrients? Tryptophan is found in abundance in animal protein: beef, chicken, turkey, pork, venison, seafood, etc. Vitamin B6 is also found in these meats as well as halibut, salmon, tuna, and cod. In addition, it can be found in various nuts and seeds, including, sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts. Capsicum, spinach, green peas, yams, broccoli, asparagus and turnip greens are all excellent sources of vitamin B6. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in proteins, such as, salmon, tuna, sardines, and beef. It is also in almonds, walnuts, pecans, and ground flaxseeds. Finally, folate can be found in high amounts in liver from nearly every animal. If that is not your thing, you can find it in leafy green vegetables, asparagus, and sunflower seeds.
Are you noticing a trend? Animal protein, vegetables, nuts and seeds are vital elements to your daily diet to help prevent and treat depression. I should note that grass-fed beef, free-range protein sources, wild fish, and organic vegetables are crucial to receive the fullest benefits from these foods.
**If you have not yet read nutrient-rich food and depression part-one, you can do so here.
Burton, L., Westen, D., & Kowalski, R. (2009). Psychology (2nd ed.). Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Retrieved January 19, 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsDepression/
Edison, R.G. (2006, October). Food for Your Moods. Listen, 60(2), 11. Retrieved January 19, 2013 from ProQuest database.
Murray, B., & Fortinberry, A. (2005). Depression facts and stats. Retrieved January 19, 2013 from http://www.upliftprogram.com/depression_facts.html