Hi everyone! Today is my first post that will connect what I learn about in graduate school with my blog! This is very exciting for me and I hope to be able to help people from these post subjects. Relating what we eat to how we feel has been researched by so many within the past years, yet only recently accepted to have a true correlation.
Today I will be discussing the connection of food to depression.
How are these two related? Well, just like any other organ in our bodies, our brain depends on nutrients for its functioning. Yet somehow, this type of research which is now known as nutritional psychiatry, is one that has been sadly neglected, or was just the victim of terribly designed studies that did not add up well, and therefore were not credible. As I mentioned above, in the past recent years the nutritional psychiatry research as stepped up their game and have been able to support the correlation through their studies.
Our brain begins to develop within the womb, and so our mental health development is dependent on our mothers diet at first. So as you may guess, an unhealthy maternal and early postnatal dietary pattern such as a lot of processed and refined foods, high-sugar beverages, and high-sodium snacks will increase the risk of behavioral and emotional problems in children. Knowing how toxic the mainstream cosmetics are with synthetics and parabens, much of the mainstream food is not any better!
So as we think of needing a good, organic, non-toxic foundation for our skin, think the same for our bodies.
Food is the foundation for our mood, our health, and our overall wellbeing.
Here are some connections between different food groups and depression symptoms:
Refined Grains: Pasta, white rice, bagels, doughnuts, some cereals, are all foods that have been identified as inflammatory and have been linked to depression. How? Carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels. The more highly refined the carbohydrate, the more increase in blood sugar levels. How is high blood sugar levels linked to depression? An increase happens in the brain in the neurotransmitter associated with depression when there is high blood sugar levels, and therefore, it alters the connections between regions of the brain that control our emotions. Many people who have diabetes also experience depression due to these facts.
What you can do?
- First, try to not have pasta or pizza every night for dinner. When you buy cereal, make sure it is truly whole grain (preferably organic), like oatmeal. Eat good sources of protein that are just as filling as those carb filled dinners. This include eggs, nuts, fish, whole grain quinoa, and yogurt.
- Why protein? Protein consists of amino acids, the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps stabilize blood sugar, which can interfere with concentration and mood when elevated (hyperglycemia).
- Second, include dietary fats in your diet which you can get in both plant and animal foods and have a big role in brain function. Omega-3 fats from foods such as fish, flax seeds, walnuts, some eggs, and grass-fed beef have been shown to improve cognitive function and lower depression by reducing inflammation.
Soft Drinks and Sodas: Americans consume on average 216 liters of soda annually. A liter of soda has 108 grams of sugar. What does that have to do with depression? Well, sugar’s most common form is sucrose, which is 1/2 glucose and 1/2 fructose. High fructose corn syrup, the sweetener in American non-diet soft drinks, is typically 55% Fructose. Fructose react chemically with tryptophan, the amino acid precursor for our important happy chemical, serotonin. The sugars can degrade tryptophan so that there isn’t as much available to be absorbed into the body which is associated with depression.
What you can do?
- Drink plenty of filtered water to improve blood flow and keep your brain well-hydrated. I went a bought a water bottle that holds close to one gallon, has a pop-out straw and a cool handle, fill it up every morning, toss a slice of lemon in it, and make sure to drink the entire thing if not more per day! Avoid sugary drinks or those with artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives. Try to limit or avoid alcohol, as well as your coffee intake.
- Green tea has been shown to reduce anxiety and sharpen mental focus while relaxing the mind – go get some! 🙂
Hydrogenated oils: As if I haven’t already gotten rid of everything you’ve got in the fridge, here is one more. Stay away from fried chicken, fried cheese sticks, fried calamari, and one that I personally can never, and will never stay away from, French fries (but if you can, do it!). Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially be food for depression. You should also watch out for saturated fats which are found in animal products such as deli meats, high-fat dairy, butter, etc. Why? They can clog arteries and prevent blood flow to the brain.
What you can do?
- Stop frying your food! Or if you can’t help it, avoid frying your food with olive oil. As it may have many health benefits for our diets in salads, or uncooked/fried foods, heating olive oil destroys many of it’s heart-healthy properties.
1. MONOUNSATURATED FATS IN OLIVE OIL ARE NOT HEAT STABLE: Olive oil is made up of about 70-80% monounsaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. This oleic acid is what gives olive oil many of it’s wonderful health benefits like improved insulin resistance, cancer-fighting properties, and improved heart health. It is also these monounsaturated fats that give olive oil a low smoking point, making it unsuitable for temperatures above 250’F (121’C).
2. HEART-HEALTHY POLYPHENOLS IN OLIVE OIL ARE EASILY DAMAGED BY HEAT: Olive oil has phenolic compounds, mainly hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein, that are rich in antioxidant properties. These phenols, which work as antioxidants to preserve heart health, begin to degrade at high heats.
3. HEATING OLIVE OIL DESTROYS OMEGA FATTY ACIDS: Olive oil contains both Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids. According to Dr. Mercola, omega-3 fats are “significant structural components of the cell membranes of tissues throughout the body and are especially rich in the retina, brain, and sperm, in which docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) constitutes 36.4% of total fatty acids”.
These fatty acids are sensitive to heat and are destroyed when olive oil is heated. I have not been able to find the exact temperature at which omega fatty acids are destroyed but find it a good practice to not heat them at all to preserve their nutritional value.
4. LOW SMOKE POINT=BREATHING IN TOXIC SMOKE: If an oil is heated beyond its smoke point, it gives off toxic smoke. Because olive oil has a low smoking point, cooking with olive oil runs the risk of creating smoke that contains compounds that are harmful to human health. You may not even notice that you are breathing in this toxic smoke.
What to cook with instead? I personally love to cook with organic coconut oil! 🙂 my boyfriend and I bought a huge jug of it from Whole Foods!
Some last tips if I may add:
Don’t skip your breakfast ! It’s super important! Even if you are simply just not hungry in the morning, eat a banana, any fruit will do, or maybe some almonds or another kind of nut. Why? Skipping breakfast is associated with lower fluency and problem-solving ability, along with lack of energy and motivation…. Soooooooo, wake up, grab a bite, and conquer your day!
Struggling with depression is tough, and getting help is even harder. I want to include some support group resources on here that are located within the Boston area (if you live anywhere else, simply google ‘Depression support groups _your state__’ and you will find many resources. Health insurance can get tricky, and doctors can jump to medications too quickly. So, I suggest attending any support group as a first step to help you cope with any depression symptoms that you may experience such as: NAMI , ADAA , or even an online support group such as MHA .
If you are in need of immediate help, here is a link to MA depression hotline numbers for each city. HOTLINE .
That’s it for today guys! I hope you enjoyed this post and have a good rest of this beautiful Sunday evening!