February 16, 2010

Food that Fights Depression

While pharmaceuticals are often the treatment of choice for depression – and sometimes they are necessary – there are foods you can eat that can help fight the condition. Some nutritionists refer to depression as a “whole body disease,” implying that the body as well as the mind needs treatment. Here are some ideas for dietary helps for depression.

1. Complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body, and glucose triggers the release of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin raises the level of tryptophan, an amino acid, in the brain. Tryptophan is crucial for the production of serotonin, which produces enhanced feelings of well-being. All this to say, including lots of healthy carbohydrates in the form of whole grains can help boost your mood. Try including the following grains into your diet:

* Brown rice
* Millet
* Quinoa
* Oats
* Whole wheat (note that some experts suggests omitting wheat in cases of depression, as wheat gluten has been linked to depression in some people)

2. Seeds and nuts

Some seeds contain tryptophan. These include:

* Sunflower seeds
* Pumpkin seeds
* Evening primrose seeds

3. Salad greens

Salads that contain a combination of some or all of the following can help fight depression.

* Purslane
* Watercress
* Pigweed
* Lettuce

Purslane in particular is an anti-depressant food. According to James A. Duke, PhD, purslane has up to 16 antidepressant compounds; among them are magnesium, potassium, calcium, folate, and lithium. Purslane also contains essential fatty acids (see below).

4. Foods high in B-vitamins

B-vitamins help keep levels of neurotransmitters at healthy levels in the brain. Foods that are high in these vitamins are:

* Pinto and navy beans (black beans and soybeans also are good for depression, as they contain the amino acid phenylalanine)
* Asparagus
* Spinach
* Brussels sprouts
* Cauliflower
* Watercress
* Broccoli
* Kale
* Peas
* Radishes

Why not make a multi-colored bean soup with whole grain pasta, and have a mixed greens salad on the side? Or you could mix raw broccoli, radishes and peas with sunflower seeds and safflower oil mayonnaise to make a “happy” salad. And eat some crunchy seeds for snacks.

5. Essential fatty acids

Also known as Omega-3s and Omega-6s, deficiencies in essential fatty acids (or EFAs) can lead to depression. Boost your intake of foods high in EFAs, such as:

* Purslane (mentioned above)
* Flaxseeds and flax oil
* Fatty fish such as salmon (be sure to get wild-caught, reputable salmon – the last thing your brain needs is heavy metal toxicity from consuming fish contaminated with mercury)
* Safflower oil
* Olive oil
* Avocados
* Raw nuts (especially cashews, peanuts, and walnuts)

A healthy, complete diet based in whole foods and beneficial fats can go a long way in promoting physical and emotional health.

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Alexis Rodrigo

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