Food and Mood
29th March, 2010
About one in four people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. There are various theories about what causes depression and what cures it, but if you suffer from this condition, it might surprise you to know that what you eat can help you.
Sugary foods produce “highs” and resulting “lows”. Slow release energy foods such as whole wheat products and fruit and vegetables are better, as they help smooth the effects of fluctuating blood sugar levels. Watch out for too much of the dreaded caffeine in tea, coffee and some high energy drinks, which can contribute to anxiety and depression. One cup of latte might provide a much needed pick-me-up, but what about when you’ve had your 10th cup? Each person’s tolerance level is different so work out what is right for you and stay within your limits. Only make changes gradually, or you may get a withdrawal headache. Alcohol is a depressant – probably best avoided if you suffer from depression.
What about chocolate? Well, if it has a high content of sugar, avoid it. Small portions of dark chocolate that have a high cocoa content (70%) are thought to be good, and can help improve your mood.
That’s the common sense stuff. Now for some more interesting information: Did you know that over 60% of the human brain consists of fat which insulates nerve endings and so supports proper signalling of messages? Over one-third of this fat consists of omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in fish oil, and it is believed that deficiency in these oils may upset the function of the brain and contribute to low mood. Eating a lot of oily fish or using omega-3 supplements that are high in EPA (which seems to be a crucial ingredient), can help “oil” your brain and allow it to work more efficiently. EPA also seems to help the SSRI anti-depressant group work more efficiently.
It has been found that people who suffer from depression are also likely to have very low levels of the vitamin B12. Taking supplements of B12 has been known to help reduce the effects of depression, and help anti-depressants work more effectively.
Keep eating proteins – “good” proteins found in lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds contain building blocks for brain chemicals. And don’t forget bananas – these are thought to help improve and maintain mental health, in spite of what “going bananas” implies!
There are many ways to overcome depression’s effects on your life. Seek advice and support from health professionals, particularly before undertaking any major changes in your diet and lifestyle. More information about food and mood can be found on the MIND website www.mind.org.uk.
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