It almost seems to good to be true that food remedies for depression may actually exist, but they are more common than most people realize and often overlooked due to large amounts of prescription drugs available for the treatment of depression.
Depression is a serious mental disorder that people all over the world suffer from on a daily basis. It is not something to be taken lightly, and in most cases, it’s not something a person can get over quickly.
There are also different types of depression. Circumstantial depression, mild depression, post-traumatic stress related depression, and lifelong (clinical) depression are some of the most common types of depression a person may face at some point in their life. Others will struggle their entire life with this disease.
What Leads to Depression:
Depression is caused by a neurological imbalance and hormonal imbalances within a person’s body and those imbalances can differ from person to person depending on what is going on and their current state of life and health. Medication does not always fix the issue at hand, and for some, it can make things even worse. That’s where food remedies for depression come into play.
No matter what type of depression you or a loved one may be dealing with, certain nutrients can help alleviate some of the neurological imbalances that occur in an individual with depression.
How Nutrition Plays a Part in the Treatment of Depression:
It’s true that food alone is not a magic cure, and certainly not something that can quickly fix everything a person deals with overnight, however, the food choices we make daily can greatly affect how we feel both mentally and physically.
Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals from leafy greens and fresh food, amino acids from easy-to-digest protein, B vitamins from food, and serotonin-boosting complex carbohydrates are all some of the most important nutrients one must have in order to fight depression through their dietary choices. Strict diets and extreme forms of eating basically set you up for an imbalance, so be sure to avoid these whenever possible. Sugar, alcohol, an excessive intake of caffeine and stimulants, and a diet high in processed foods are also not supportive of a healthy brain and dietary depression prevention.
Opt for these 7 natural food remedies for depression that you may want to consider, and clean up your diet to include a variety of real, whole foods. Your body and brain will thank you!
Oats are one of the most health-promoting foods you can eat and they’re rich in serotonin-boosting carbohydrates that promote a healthy brain. Oats are also high in minerals you need for a healthy brain such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. B vitamins are also abundant in oats and a must-have nutrient to relieve stress and promote a positive outlook. Oats also contain small amounts of fat and a decent amount of protein compared to most grains which make them even more satisfying and beneficial to brain health.
Oatmeal is also one of the most low-glycemic grains you can eat and one of the best for blood sugar health. It can even help boost your metabolism and help you lose depression-related weight gain too.
Feel free to eat cooked oats, overnight (soaked) oats, or bake with oats in place of flour. Just be sure you choose whole oat grains versus instant oats that are flavored with sugar and may have additives that don’t benefit your health.
Feel free to check out more benefits of eating oatmeal here if you’re still skeptical of just how healthy these whole grains are for you!
Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, B vitamins, selenium, iodine, magnesium, and it even contains zinc and iron as well. It’s also a great replacement for meat and is better for your overall heart and body than red meat since salmon is low in saturated fat and less inflammatory to the body.
Wild salmon is one of the top foods to eat for depression because it is relatively easy to digest so your body can absorb the healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and protein as quickly as possible for easy assimilation and utilization of those nutrients. Studies have even shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and foods such as walnuts can help alleviate depression and stress in a short period of time.
If you don’t want to eat fish or just don’t enjoy the taste of it, consider a high-quality fish oil supplement instead. There are many fish oil options on the market that don’t smell or taste like fish whatsoever and could make a dramatic improvement to your overall mood. To enjoy fish as a food, just add 4-6 ounces of cooked, wild salmon into your day and try it out in both lunch and dinner entrées. Here are some recipes to get you started!
3. Coconut Oil
A diet low in fat is not one that supports optimal brain health, so avoid low-fat diets at all costs if you’re looking for natural food remedies for depression. Consume small amounts of fatty foods each day and choose those found in nature like avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut meat, and opt for only high-quality oils such as coconut oil in place of vegetable oils that lead to poor health.
Why coconut oil?
Extra-virgin (raw), cold-pressed coconut oil is one of the most beneficial foods you can eat and comes from one of the most healthy foods on earth—the coconut fruit! Coconut is actually not a nut at all and is very easy to digest. As a result, all parts of the coconut are immediately used by the body for easy nutrient absorption and utilization of those nutrients.
Coconut oil specifically has been shown to improve memory, focus, and help one maintain a positive outlook. It undergoes a different type of digestion that contributes to its brain-boosting benefits. When you consume coconut, it actually goes directly to your liver where it is digested and used for energy and the removal of wastes. It has been shown to stimulate neurotransmitter activity in the brain that produces serotonin, just like carbohydrates help to do.
When you add coconut to your diet, be sure to start slow. It’s a potent healthy fat and a little can go a long way. Too much too fast can lead to an excessive intake of saturated fat all at once (and possibly an upset stomach), so start with a teaspoon of coconut oil at a time and work your way up to a tablespoon a day. That’s plenty enough to see results!
You can add coconut oil to your oatmeal, smoothie, coffee, or use it to cook with in place of olive oil. The lower heat you apply to coconut oil, the better, but it is a safer option to cook with in place of other oils if you enjoy doing so.
Spinach is not just a healthy variety of salad greens you can benefit from; it’s a powerhouse of nutrition you should be taking advantage of immediately if you can, especially as a food remedy to help fight depression.
Studies have shown that a diet high in leafy greens helps boost mental power and keep the neurons in the brain working at optimal levels due to the many micronutrients leafy greens contain. Spinach is high in protein, Vitamin E, iron, folic acid (a B vitamin), Vitamin C, and beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A in the body. It’s also high in chlorophyll to fight inflammation and it plays a role in helping keep your body naturally energized.
Spinach is also easy to work into your current diet, and it’s a fantastic food to keep on hand with the other natural food remedies you’ll be enjoying to help you fight depression. Pair spinach with salmon or tuna, mushrooms, peppers, and asparagus at dinner with a side of brown or wild rice. Or, enjoy some spinach in a smoothie mixed with frozen blueberries, Greek yogurt, strawberries, and some cocoa powder for a delicious green smoothie full of brain-boosting nutrients!
All types of berries are fantastic foods to help boost brain power and can contribute to less depressive symptoms. However, berries that are darker in color such as blueberries, blackberries, and acai berry, have also been shown to improve brain health significantly more so than others due to the anthocyanins they contain.
Anthocyanins are dark-colored pigments that relieve inflammation and appear to have a serotonin-boosting function once consumed. Blueberries are one of the most readily available types of dark-colored berries you can eat and ones that are consistently linked to better brain health.
Berries are also high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and very high in fiber. Vitamin C helps relieve mental stress and aids in overall good health. Antioxidants of all kinds have been shown to improve mood, and fiber slows down blood sugar levels to prevent blood sugar swings that can lead to hormonal imbalances.
Add blueberries into your diet however you desire and feel free to enjoy them fresh or frozen. Buy organic if you can, and go for wild blueberries whenever possible since they’ve been shown to include almost double the benefits of regular blueberries.
6. Ground Flax
Flaxseed is one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. It contains a form of omega-3 fats known as ALA which is unique to plant-based sources. ALA stands for alpha-linolenic acid and these types of healthy fats boost brain health and they reduce inflammation. ALA is also important for overall heart health and the lubrication of the joints.
So how do flax seeds boost your brain health?
In short, they keep your body working at optimal levels and help boost mental and digestive function. They also help slow down blood sugar and have been shown to promote healthy hormones in the body since they’re a natural phytoestrogenic food.
Phytoestrogens in plant sources such as flax help eliminate harmful, fake estrogens that we encounter from the environment and through conventional animal products given toxic chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics. Fake estrogens can lead to estrogen dominance that triggers depression, hormonal imbalances, and even lead to cancer.
Add two tablespoon of ground flax to your day either in a smoothie or oatmeal. Your body doesn’t absorb the nutrients from the whole seeds and they simply leave the body undigested, so always opt for ground flax seed or grind your own at home in a coffee grinder. Keep flax in the fridge since its fats are delicate and more prone to rancidity than other nuts and seeds.
It seems this vegetable is good for everything these days and that’s because it is! When it comes to fighting depression through natural food remedies, it’s important to consume as many nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and source of healthy fats and protein as possible. Broccoli is one of those foods because it offers a variety of nutrients including protein, VItamin C, calcium, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and it is also a natural phytoestrogenic food just like flax.
Broccoli has been shown to decrease stress, improve mood health, and improve overall hormone and mental function. It is one of the top foods to eat to prevent cancer and depression naturally due to its unique health-giving properties.
If the thought of eating steamed broccoli bores you to tears, consider blending it into a soup to make a creamy and fiber-rich dinner, or roast it on a pan with sweet potatoes for a unique flavor. Sprinkle it with some black pepper and lemon juice and add a tiny bit of coconut oil to top it off. Or, toss a few frozen florets into your next breakfast smoothie—you’ll never taste it if you add some blueberries and banana!
Remember that depression is the result of an imbalance within the body. It is nothing to be ashamed of and there are many natural food remedies you can take in order to prevent depression from taking over your life and health.
It’s also important to incorporate movement into your day since studies have shown that light to moderate exercise can greatly improve mood and overall health. For depression, movement stimulates the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural antidepressant chemicals.
You may also consider taking probiotic foods or eating fermented foods since studies have shown that an imbalance of healthy bacteria found in the gut can disrupt brain health and lead to depression. Take a high-quality probiotic or eat plain Greek yogurt, drink kefir, or eat fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi if you’re interested in seeing how probiotics and fermented foods may improve your gut and brain health.
Lastly, be sure that you also get enough rest and prioritize self-care as you seek treatment for depression. Always reach out to a professional whenever possible if you need clinical help for depression. You can get valuable resources for treatment from organizations such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
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