Post-holiday depression and seasonal affective disorder are common this time of year, but did you know that your food choices can also seriously affect your mood? The nutrients you consume - as well as the nutrients you don't consume - can greatly influence the way your brain functions.
Remove High-Lectin Foods
A healthy brain is dependent on a healthy gut. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is a substance that helps your brain to restrain and manage impulses. More than 90% of the serotonin in your body is produced in the gut. Digestive problems can disturb the production of serotonin, which can lead to issues like depression and anxiety.
Lectins are proteins that are created by plants as part of their natural defense mechanism against predators, including humans. Lectins are found in all foods at varying levels, and are especially high in grains, nightshade vegetables, dairy, and legumes.
Lectins cause damage to the cells that line the intestinal tract. This often results in food allergies and digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A large number of people who suffer with IBS also struggle with depression and anxiety.
Increase Natural Fats
As the amount of fat in the average diet decreases, the number of people who suffer from depression increases. The human brain is about three-quarters fat, and it needs this nutrient to function properly.
According to Psychology Today, those who adhere to a low-fat diet put themselves at a higher risk of depression. As with lectins, serotonin may be at the center of the issue. Low fat and reduced cholesterol in the diet may cause an interruption in serotonin function.
Salmon, nuts, and eggs are some examples of foods that contain healthy fats and may help you to avoid depression. Stay away from artificial trans-fats, as they do nothing to promote health and will contribute to weight gain and disease.
Eat More Fish
It has been proven repeatedly that people who eat seafood regularly do not struggle with depression as often as those who refrain from eating seafood. In a study of depression throughout nine countries, researchers found that symptoms were significantly lower among those who consumed fish at least two times per week.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in greater concentrations in the synaptic membranes. Synapses are essential to the nervous system and play a major role in thought processes.
Seafood tends to contain high amounts of DHA. There is a lot of concern over heavy metal toxicity because of the amount of mercury found in many varieties of fish. As a result, it is not uncommon for people to choose to abstain from seafood.
Fortunately, there are some kinds of fish and seafood that contain high amounts of selenium, which counteracts the toxic effects of mercury. Selenium binds to mercury and creates a new substance that cannot be absorbed by the body. Because of this, it is important to include breeds of fish that have greater amounts of selenium than mercury. Examples of high-selenium fish include salmon, tuna, and sardines. The benefits of including seafood in your diet far outweigh the risks.
Nutrition affects not only your body, but your mind as well. Changes in diet can greatly affect on how your brain works. The brain requires natural dietary fats and DHA in order to operate, as well as a healthy gut for neurotransmitters and synapses to function properly. Don't underestimate the benefits of proper nutrition for a healthy mind.
Marano, Hara Estroff. "The Risks of Low-Fat Diets | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Psychology Today, 29 Apr. 2003.
Noaghiul, S. "Cross-National Comparisons of Seafood Consumption and Rates of Bipolar Disorders." American Journal of Psychiatry 160.12 (2003): 2222-227.