Nutrition and Depression
Depression is a serious problem in America. The Centers of Disease Control estimate that in America, one out of every twenty people suffer from depression at any given time, and that 80% of depressed individuals report some level of impairment (such as having difficulty at work or school) due to their condition (Mann, 2008).
Though professional care is essential for anyone experiencing suicidal feelings and thoughts, (and is advisable for anyone experiencing a case of the blues that lasts longer than two weeks), there are certain foods that can help ease depression symptoms.
There’s a reason that a certain brand of premium ice cream has a reputation for soothing breakup blues. Foods containing sugar and other carbohydrates cause the body to produce tryptophan, a chemical compound that the body then uses to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) responsible for a sense of happiness and well-being. Good high-carbohydrate foods include whole-grain breads, cereals such as oatmeal, and whole wheat pasta.
However, there are some high-carbohydrate foods that depressed individuals should limit intake of. Refined sugars such as those found in ice cream, cake, and other desserts spike serotonin, which then falls dramatically, resulting in a “crash” similar to the type experienced by drug users. In a study reported by The Doctor’s Book of Food Remedies, 20 depressed people were asked to eliminate all refined sugars. Three weeks later, all of them reported that their condition had improved (Yeager, 2007).
Omega-3 fats, which are currently generating a lot of buzz for their ability to prevent heart disease and cancer, are also one of nature’s best mood-enhancers. Foods rich in Omega 3s have shown promise against depression, especially the type caused by bipolar disorder (WebMD, 2000).
Tuna and other cold-water, fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are some of the best sources of Omega-3 fats. Two 3 ounce servings a week is usually enough to reap the benefits. To avoid any problems with mercury contamination, choose “chunk light” tuna, which comes from skip-jack tuna, a small fish that doesn’t retain as much mercury as larger species (Popoff, 2008).
Those who do not eat fish can get Omega-3s from plant sources such as flax oil, flax seed (great on oatmeal), and canola oil.
For more information on depression, check out these great Bright Hub articles.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from depression, and need more help than online articles can provide, contact your doctor or local county mental health services (usually listed under “mental health” in the yellow pages). For those experiencing suicidal feelings or thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (1-800-273-TAL) immediately.
Mann, D. (2008, 3 September). 1 in 20 Americans Depressed. WebMD Health. Retrieved 4 June, 2010 from https://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20080903/cdc-one-in-20-americans-depressed
Popoff, D. (Producer). (2008, 7 July). Good Eats: Tuna, Suprise! [Television Broadcast]. Atlanta, GA: Bee Squared Productions.
WebMD Staff. (2000). Fish Oil to Treat Depression. WebMD Depression Health Center. Retrieved 4 June 2010 from https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/fish-oil-to-treat-depression?page=2