Depression is a serious issue… it affects 121 million people worldwide.
Many of us have felt overly sad and helpless at times, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, your job, financial distress, loneliness, etc. Whatever the case, depression can really take a toll on your life.
Friendships and relationships suffer. You may even turn to food, or worse, drugs and alcohol to numb the sadness.
Now, I am not a doctor and want to make it clear that if you are severely depressed, you should see your doctor immediately!
But, if you are just going through a tough season in life and need a little boost, I have some great tips for you. Natural ways to try and reverse the sadness are always better than pumping your body full of anti-depressants (unless you absolutely need them, of course).
One of my favorite sayings is, “This too shall pass.” It’s okay to be sad once in a while (who isn’t?) and know that it is only temporary.
There are many lifestyle factors that contribute to depression, but one that’s often overlooked is what you put in your mouth.
Did you know that those who regularly eat high-fat foods, processed meals, desserts and sweets are almost 60% more likely to suffer depression than those who choose fruit, vegetables and fish?
If your diet is high in foods that make blood sugar levels go up and down like a yo-yo, then it’s not good for your blood vessels and is bound to have an effect on your brain.
Check out these foods you should be adding to your diet to lower your risk of depression and get you feeling naturally happy and energized.
DEPRESSION FIGHTING FOODS
If you were to choose the healthiest food of all, the most nutrient-dense item available for us to eat, it would be dark, leafy greens, no contest. Things like spinach, kale, & swiss chard all make the list for depression fighting foods.
They fight against all kinds of inflammation, and according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry, severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. Leafy greens are especially important because they contain oodles of vitamins A, C, E, and K, minerals and phytochemicals.
NUTS & SEEDS
When eaten in moderation, most nuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as protein. But walnuts get the edge when it comes to lessening the symptoms of depression because they also are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Flaxseeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are especially good for your mood because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Not only do seeds add their own spectrum of unique disease-fighting substances to your diet, but the fat in seeds increases the absorption of nutrients in vegetables eaten at the same meal.
When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, no food source is better than fatty fish like mackerel, bluefish, wild salmon and tuna. The fatty acids found in these fish not only have specific brain-boosting properties to fight depression, but also are good for overall health as well. They improve circulation and reduce inflammation and your overall risk of heart disease.
Looking for an alternative depression treatment? Most lean sources of protein are good for beating depression, but turkey has the edge due to its relatively higher levels of a chemical called tryptophan.
Turkey is the best food we know of because of its tryptophan content. This chemical stimulates serotonin production, which is a natural feel-good chemical your body produces.
APPLES & BERRIES
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available to us. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients were treated for two years with antioxidants or placebos. After two years those who were treated with antioxidants had a significantly lower depression score. They are like DNA repairmen. They go around fixing your cells and preventing them from getting cancer and other illnesses.
An apple a day could — if eaten with the rest of these foods — keep the psychiatrist away, at least for stretches of time. Like berries, apples are high in antioxidants, which can help to prevent and repair oxidation damage and inflammation on the cellular level. They are also full of soluble fiber, which balances blood sugar swings.
If you’re feeling depressed, this bold spice found in many Indian and Asian curry dishes is a great way to boost your mood, among other benefits. Turmeric can indeed be considered one of the ‘spices of life’ because of its profound anti-inflammatory activity.
Famously used in spicy Indian and Thai dishes, turmeric contains the active compounds turmerones and curcuminods, which have been associated with a wide range of health benefits.
Researchers know that oolong tea is an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, but its depression-fighting properties can be traced to an amino acid known as L-theanine.
L-theanine is an amino acid naturally found in tea leaves that provides an anti-stress relaxation benefit to tea drinkers. The presence of theanine in oolong tea is thought to be responsible for the observation that caffeine intake in coffee drinkers (who aren’t getting theanine) is more apt to result in tension as opposed to the ‘relaxed alertness’ more common to tea drinkers.
NATURAL WAYS TO FIGHT DEPRESSION
Along with your diet, therapy and sometimes medication, there’s a lot you can do on your own to fight back. Changing your behavior — your physical activity, lifestyle and even your way of thinking are all natural depression treatments.
Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine. Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.
Set goals. When you’re depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself.
Start very small. Make your goal something that you can succeed at, something small like doing the dishes every other day or going to the grocery.
As you start to feel better, you can add more challenging daily goals.
Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression. Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways.
How much exercise do you need? You don’t need to run marathons to get a benefit. Just walking a few times a week can help. Finding the motivation to exercise when you’re depressed can be extremely tough. To make it a little easier, try to make it part of your routine and set small goals for yourself to get started and stick with it.
Get enough sleep. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut-eye and too little sleep can make depression worse.
What can you do? Start by making some changes to your lifestyle. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try not to nap. Take all the distractions out of your bedroom — no computer and no TV. In time, you may find your sleep improves and your mood will follow soon after.
Take on responsibilities. When you’re depressed, you may want to pull back from life and give up your responsibilities at home and at work. Don’t. Staying involved and having daily responsibilities can help you maintain a lifestyle that can help counter depression. They ground you and give you a sense of accomplishment.
If you’re not up to full-time school or work, that’s fine. Think about part-time. If that seems like too much, consider volunteer work.
Get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D receptors are located throughout the body, including your brain.
A 2010 national study found that the likelihood of having depression is higher in people with low levels of vitamin D. In another study, researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who had symptoms of depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to get better when the amount of vitamin D in their bodies went up as you’d expect it to during the spring and summer.
Researchers don’t know how much vitamin D is ideal, although too much can cause problems with calcium levels and how well your kidneys work.
Manage your weight. People who are obese may be more likely to become depressed. And, according to several studies, people who are depressed are more likely to become obese. Researchers believe that may be the result of changes in your immune system and hormones that come with depression.
Fortunately, a nutritious diet including the foods above will help you get to and stay at a healthy weight. If you’re having a hard time, talk with your doctor.
All of these tips can help bring you out of that temporary funk you may be in at the moment. However, if you find that you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact your primary care physician immediately to be properly screened for depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Depression is a problem worldwide and it impacts even the best of us from time to time. Don’t go another day feeling blue. Be sure to add some of these amazing foods to your diet and implement a few of our do-it-yourself tips to naturally fight off your depression.
Have you tried fighting your depression without medication? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
P.S. To find the best Oolong tea to fight your depression, look no further. Okuma Nutritionals has pure, premium, one ingredient oolong tea that is grown without the use of pesticides, GMOs, and packaged WITHOUT harmful fillers, GMOs, artificial colors/flavors and absolutely NO corn/soy. It’s also REALLY delicious! But, don’t just take our word for it, check it out for yourself!