Overcoming depression takes strength. Mental strength to change entrenched thought patterns and beliefs, and physical strength to break through apathy and exhaustion. This process demands a lot from you. This makes it all the more important to supply the body and mind with energy through optimal nutrition. In the article you will find an overview of which foods are real powerhouses, what influence exactly the diet can have on depression and how to get necessary nutrients and vitamins.
The appetite changes in a depression. Many sufferers literally lose their appetite and eat too little food. Weight loss and an undersupply of energy and nutrients occur. Others suffer from ravenous appetite and gain a lot of weight during depression. Food can sometimes serve as a solace and distraction.
Both extremes are damaging to our health. For the psyche to heal, the body needs balance. It is important to find the balance again and to eat pleasurably and healthily. Proper nutrition doesn’t have to be time-consuming or fancy. Forget complicated superfoods, much is in our daily foods.
Can we influence the course of depression through our diet? To answer this question, we need to delve a little deeper into the complex biological causes of depressive illness. It has not yet been researched in great detail how exactly diet is related to the psyche, but it is clear that what we eat does influence our psychological well-being (Hausteiner et al., 2007).
Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine
In depression, neurotransmitters in the brain become unbalanced. In a healthy state, these messengers ensure, for example, that we can feel pleasure, that we focus on tasks and feel balanced. A deficiency leads to irritability, listlessness, apathy, sleep disorders and mental illness (Schandry, 2007).
The little helpers are also necessary for different areas of the brain to communicate with each other and for us to manage our daily lives. For their production, the body needs special amino acids and nutrients, which we must consume through food. The best-known messenger substances in connection with depression are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
Taking optimal care of the brain
Two important pieces of the puzzle for the production of the above-mentioned neurotransmitters are the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine (Rao et al., 2008). Since the body cannot produce these substances itself, we must take them in through our diet, as mentioned earlier. For example, expand your diet to include the following foods to help boost the production of neurotransmitters:
You realize, no exotic plants or obscure supplements are necessary to do something good for the psyche. Even taking to heart small tips & tricks play a big role for the right diet for depression.
According to research, what other nutrients are real mood boosters? Fish, walnuts, coconut milk, olive oil, and cashews contain many omega-3 fatty acids, the importance of which for nutrition, especially in depression, has been repeatedly emphasized (Rao et al., 2008). A particularly versatile source of omega-3s is linseed oil. It tastes delicious in muesli or salad dressings. A good supply of omega-3 fatty acids ensures physical and mental fitness and boosts cell metabolism (Shahidi et al., 2018).
Much debate surrounds the supply of vitamin D in the context of depression. A 2013 meta-analysis provides evidence that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with depression (Anglin et al., 2013). Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” That is, our bodies make it themselves when they come into contact with the sun (Jorde et al., 2008). But some foods also contain vitamin D: seafood, dairy products and mushrooms can enrich us with the valuable nutrient and thus help to overcome depression.
Balance in the brain
In depression, the chemical balance in the brain is often upset. To get back into balance, we need an adequate supply of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid. All three are essential for the function of our nervous system and ensure, for example, that our nerves can pass on information quickly.
Broccoli and green leafy vegetables (spinach, chard, kale) contain particularly high levels of vitamin B6. Vitamin B12, on the other hand, can only be absorbed through animal products. Vegetarians and vegans are therefore also recommended to inform themselves about an additional intake of vitamin B12 (Ströhle et al., 2018). Folic acid is a growth-stimulating substance and also belongs to the B vitamins. Some studies additionally show that antidepressants work better when sufficient folic acid is present in the body (Deuschle et al., 2019). The vitamin intake in particular thus plays a significant role in the diet in the course of depression!
Recently, inflammatory processes in the body have been suspected of triggering depression (Rusch et al., 2018). If inflammation levels rise in the body, psychological symptoms may result. Indeed, the body reacts to infections by decreasing drive, simply to conserve resources for recovery. Anti-inflammatory substances, such as zinc and magnesium, are found in foods such as pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, seaweed, peanuts and lentils. If the body no longer has to fight inflammatory processes, more strength is available for activities again.
Of course, everyone, sick or healthy, benefits from healthy eating. A few rules of thumb apply to all people: We need carbohydrates, animal or plant protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and adequate fluids. Sweets and fast foods should be enjoyed in moderation. These foods provide the most important building blocks. Important: These are suggestions! More information is provided by the German Nutrition Society
Carbohydrates: potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, sweet potatoes
Tip: Try the whole grain variety. Delicious, nutritious and filling!
Protein: Legumes, nuts, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, meat, fish
Healthy fats: olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts
Vitamins and minerals: fruits, vegetables, nuts
Every now and then, of course, it may also be “soul food”. Consciously enjoy small treats. How about dark chocolate, homemade cake or vegetable chips baked in the oven?
In many clinics that focus on the treatment of mental illness, there is now a strong emphasis on healthy, wholesome food. Regional and seasonal foods are processed into delicious and wholesome dishes. After all, healthy nutrition is an important component in depression treatment, although by no means the only one. To address the disease holistically, psychotherapy, drug treatment, relaxation methods and sports are used in combination.
In a sense, proper nutrition is the basis for successful treatment. The therapy with depression is energy-consuming, the constant occupation with the own feeling can be really exhausting. Those affected should take care to look after their bodies properly. Through a combination of treatment methods, depressed individuals regain their courage to face life and their sense of well-being. The motto is: Our body is a temple in which the soul resides. We should take good care of this temple and maintain it so that the soul feels comfortable in it.