There’s a growing body of research that says that for people with depression, proper nutrition can provide a world of relief.
The logic is that a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals can exacerbate symptoms of depression.
This idea isn’t new. Ten years ago, an article in the journal Biological Psychiatry stated that “Adequate nutrition is needed for countless aspects of brain functioning. Poor diet quality, ubiquitous in the United States, may be a modifiable risk factor for depression… deficiencies of folate, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and selenium tend to be more common among depressed than nondepressed persons.”(1)
According to the article, women of childbearing age are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects that poor nutrition can have on mood.
How Your Diet Effects Your Mood
There are many chemicals in your brain that serve to regulate your mood. Serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and gamma-amonibutyric acid are all neurotransmitters which the body manufactures using vitamins and minerals extracted from the foods we eat.
“We know that the production of neurotransmitters needs adequate amounts of nutrients,” one article states.
“Among these nutrients, we mention amino acids (tryptophan, tyrosine, and glutamine), minerals (zinc, copper, iron, magnesium), and B vitamins (B6, B12, folic acid). These are found in whole grains (zinc, copper, magnesium), eggs, cheese, yogurt (tyrosine, glutamine, zinc, magnesium), beans, vegetables, especially leafy green ones, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, corn, fish, poultry, etc.”(2)
If you don’t get those vitamins and minerals from your daily diet, your brain won’t produce those chemicals.
Medications like SSRIs can target specific neurotransmitters in order to provide relief for depression sufferers. However, SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft do not help your body manufacture more serotonin (the neurotransmitter targeted by that specific class of drugs) – rather, they keep more serotonin present in the brain, so cells can use it as needed.
A Cookbook For Depression And Anxiety
Recently, a licenced clinical social worker named Angela Dailey released her first cookbook – “Cooking to Cure: A Nutritional Approach To Anxiety And Depression”. It focuses on whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fatty fish and lean proteins.
Dailey has worked with individuals with mental illnesses for over 25 years, during which time she developed a keen interest in nutrition and its relationship to mental health.
Dailey stresses that if antidepressants work for you, you shouldn’t go off them without a doctor’s guidance. However, the connection between nutrition and mental health is worth exploring even – perhaps especially – if you are currently taking antidepressant medications.
The cookbook is available for purchase on Amazon.com(3).