If you suffer from a mood disorder or depressive illness, you are not alone. These challenges are incredibly common and impact about 1 in 4 adults. Though these disorders can be debilitating, studies show that making changes in your diet can positively impact mood and make it easier to manage mania and depression.
Here’s some food for thought: Check out the benefits of these food groups to improve your diet and boost your mood.
Packing on the protein
Protein is an important component of any diet, but it can be an especially great source of mood-boosting nutrients. Consuming fish, particularly more oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and fresh tuna, is a proven way to combat feelings of depression. Grass-fed beef is also linked to lowering depression. Both of these food groups are high in omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that penetrate the brain cell membrane to fuel mood-related molecules.
Poultry is another great food for mental wellbeing. Chicken and turkey are particularly important for your diet as they stabilize blood sugar levels while supplying the body with tryptophan, an important amino acid that produces the mood-stabilizer serotonin.
However, eating meat isn’t the only way to get protein. There are plenty of mood-boosting protein choices for vegetarian and vegan diets, including beans and nuts. Both of these foods are high in fiber, with nuts containing omega-3 fatty acids and beans supplying the body with prebiotics to support healthy gut bacteria.
Keep the fruit coming
When it comes to eating for your mind, don’t forget your fruits. Fruit is an excellent choice for a snack or side dish high in antioxidants that protect the body from cell damage and improve cognitive functioning. In particular, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, apples, and grapes are antioxidant-rich. Bananas are great mood boosters as well due to their high concentration of vitamin B6, a big producer of serotonin.
Vegetables also get a green thumbs up for fighting depression symptoms. In particular, leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce are important sources of folate, or vitamin B9. Low levels of folate can trigger anxiety, insomnia, and depression, so it’s important to make sure your diet is full of these good-for-you greens.
Foods to limit
Though there are plenty of foods that can reduce symptoms of mood disorders, other food groups can worsen the effects of depression and mania. Processed sugar is a sneaky synthetic substance that appears in everything from cookies and sweets to cereals and salad dressing. It can cause spikes in blood sugar, which may result in increased anxiety. Sugar can also come with many different names including high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, and sucrose. So, if you see an ingredient on a food label that seems suspicious, make sure to do your research so you can limit your sugar intake.
Like sugar, refined carbohydrates are also synthetically created substances that can destabilize mood. Foods such as bread, pasta, white rice, and chips have very little nutritional value and do not supply the body with vitamin B, an important nutrient derived from foods that support brain function.
Your outlook can also be impacted by alcohol consumption, which depresses the nervous system and causes blood sugar to spike and fall rapidly. The whirlwind of mood changes brought on by alcohol can trigger symptoms of depression and mania, so drinking in moderation or avoiding it altogether is the best course of action for those struggling with mood disorders.
Though eating properly is a step in the right direction, you may still experience challenges with your mental health. At Valley Oaks, we offer counseling services to help you build healthy mental health habits and better manage your mood disorder.