As anyone who has had depression can attest, your mood isn’t just created by circumstances. How you feel is the result of neurotransmitters sending information through your neurons by binding to receptors. Each neurotransmitter is made of amino acids that are either obtained through food or created by the body.
Deficiency in proper nutrients is one of the key ways a depressive episode can be caused or worsened by your diet. On the flip side, eating the wrong foods can also worsen your mood.
Here are seven ways to relieve symptoms of depression caused by your diet:
- Tryptophan and tyrosine. Tryptophan — found in bananas, sea vegetables, spirulina, soy, watercress, and mushrooms — is an amino acid that your body turns into serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for keeping you stable and happy. Tyrosine (found in spinach, mustard greens, soy, and sea vegetables), on the other hand, turns into dopamine, which leads to a sense of reward.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 arguably is one of the most important nutrients for stable moods, and studies have shown that Omega-3 is an effective treatment for depression and bipolar disorder. Most Americans, however, don’t get enough of it in their diet. Make sure to get enough Omega-3 through algae, chia seeds, ground flax seeds or flax oil, walnuts, soy, and avocado.
- B Vitamins. The whole family of B vitamins is crucial for keeping depression at bay. These vitamins are required for neurotransmitter production, and deficiency is linked to depression and anxiety. Load up on B vitamins through nutritional yeast, fortified foods like cereal and pasta, legumes like lentils, leafy greens like spinach, asparagus, broccoli, bananas, and avocado (just one contains 25 percent of your daily B6 needs!).
- Vitamin D. Studies have long shown a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and clinical depression. The best source of vitamin D is through getting enough sun, but you can also speed things along by including fortified foods like almond milk.
- Beware of your food sensitivities to common allergens. Even people without celiac disease can have gluten sensitivity that can alter their mood. Studies show that gluten may inhibit tryptophan availability, which in turn lowers serotonin levels. Gluten also impacts the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Other common allergens like dairy, artificial food dyes, and pesticides can also alter your hormones. When in doubt, it’s always best to focus on eating natural, organic, fresh foods.
- Reduce caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. These three substances rock your body’s blood-sugar balance, sending you on a high followed by an even worse crash. If you need a little sweet treat, satisfy your cravings the healthy way with no-sugar-added treats. Instead of coffee, enjoy caffeine-free teas that have additional health and beauty benefits.
- Drink enough water. Even a mild dehydration can alter your mood, according to research by the University of Connecticut. To keep your moods stable and positive, make sure to drink water before you feel thirsty. Carry a reusable bottle with clean, filtered water everywhere you go.