We really are what we eat. Feed yourself a diet compromised of processed foods, drink diet sodas and coffee all day, and believe me you will get depressed. Of course there are many other reasons for depression and you should seek medical advice if you are suffering from this debilitating disease. You can, however, help your body and your mind by feeding it the right foods. More and more studies are coming out that support our abilities to alleviate, if not cure, anxiety, depression, insomnia and a host of other disorders through nutrition.
I myself suffered from an anxiety and panic disorder that were so bad at times it kept me from leaving my house. It’s an awful feeling and too many people, especially women, deal with this on a daily basis. Sadly, we blame ourselves. It’s not your fault, but you can do something about it. We must take action to care for ourselves proactively rather than reactively.
The following vitamins and minerals have been show in recent studies to improve both depression and anxiety. I’ve listed good sources for each micronutrient & all are plant based.
Water, pure and simple. Water is needed for every single function in our body and our brains are approximately 78% water! Now if that doesn’t get you chugging down your water I don’t know what would. Nothing affects the brain more profoundly than water. Daily-recommended intake is 9 – 12 cups per day for the sedentary person. If you are active or exercise daily, or recovering form an injury or illness add in a couple of more cups. A loss of 1 – 2% of body weight as fluid will reduce alertness and the ability to concentrate. Drink up!!
A B vitamin found in tofu, soy milk, broccoli, pinto beans, quinoa, almonds, to name a few. Eating a well-balanced vegan diet should ensure you get enough choline. Low choline levels have been associated with increased anxiety and linked to depression.
The sun! The role of vitamin D in depression has been very well documented. It plays a very important role in maintaining both dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Since we are spending more and more time inside, this has become a worldwide health problem. Taking a vitamin D supplement would be very beneficial especially if you live in a cold climate and/or don’t get outside very often. Obviously, as a vegan, stay away from fortified cows milk. Dairy is NOT an option!
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Found in flaxseed or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, seaweed, oils, leafy greens. These options have a good omega 3 – omega 6 ratios. Since Omega 6 inhibits the conversion of omega 3’s into DHA and EPA, it’s important to keep a balanced intake between the two omegas. When in doubt take a daily supplement.
an amino acid which is the building block for serotonin, that feel good brain chemical, can be found in spirulina, chia seeds, roasted soybeans, wheat germ, sesame seeds, flax seed, cashews, and almonds. Contrary to popular belief, eating animal products with tryptophan is not a good source. The pro-inflammatory cytokines found in animal proteins degrades the tryptophan. Most animal –based proteins are loaded with saturated fat and lack fiber and vitamins making it difficult for the body to use tryptophan for serotonin and melatonin production.
Lastly eating tryptophan foods with carbohydrates can help more tryptophan get to the brain. The reason this happens is because the insulin, released from eating the carbohydrate rich foods, absorbs the other amino acids into tissues leaving tryptophan to be more readily absorbed into the brain.
So there you have it, a list of 5 different vital nutrients to fuel your good mood. If you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety please do not try to struggle through this alone. Seek the help of your doctor, family, and friends. Anxiety and depression, like any other disease, could be caused from many other factors other than nutrition. The good news is it is curable and you don’t have to continue suffering. Along with a well balanced diet that includes these nutrients try incorporate exercise, meditation, and fresh air into your daily routine
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Lisa Swanson is an ACE certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist as well as a certified PN level 1 nutritionist. With over 30 years experience helping women turn their lives around she can easily adapt programs to meet your specific needs.
Check out my interview with the Magnificent Midlife podcast on staying fit and healthy long-term.