Fighting Depression with Diet

Jaene Tenorio, Nutritionist
February 9, 2017
Making food an ally for good mental health.

It is possible to make food an ally in helping us feel happy. This is because good eating habits can directly aid our well-being.


The proper functioning of the nervous system depends on a number of factors such as the release of sufficient amounts of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine for example, which are substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain for the purpose of causing feelings of pleasure and well-being.


The production of these substances can be positively influenced by the proper intake of amino acids and other nutrients from our diet.


Other important factors in the fight against depression and its symptoms, with regard to our lifestyle, are our habits of how and where we eat, in addition to regular exercise.


Here are some important tips:
- Avoid sweets by substituting for fresh fruits or dried fruits (without added sugar). Excess sugar or simple carbohydrates cause a rapid rise and subsequent abrupt drop in blood glucose. These constant fluctuations in blood glucose have a significant effect on mood. Exaggerated amounts of sucrose (refined sugar) momentarily produce a sense of well-being, but then generate discomfort.


- Avoid "fast foods": fatty foods, fried foods, fatty meats.


- Increase consumption of fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables.


- Consume legumes (beans, chickpeas, soy, lentils, peas) daily.


- Include walnuts, almonds, peanuts, other nuts and seeds in food.


- Eat bananas, pineapples, and plums often. These foods are rich in tryptophan—the precursor amino acid serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and sleep and other things)— and sufferers of depression also suffer from a deficiency of serotonin.


- Stay away from coffees, soft drinks, black teas, and other stimulant drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages.


- Vitamin B supplements (B12, B9, B2, B6, B1), as well as supplements of Omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, Vitamin D, and magnesium may also be added to the diet. However, the dose should be customized to each individual and prescribed by a nutritionist or physician.


- Eat slowly, chewing food well.


- Try to have meals in quiet places, in pleasant company, and away from the television.


- Keep moving. Practice physical activity regularly. Through physical exercise, the endorphin that results in a feeling of well-being and happiness is released.


Our diet can be the key to many good things in our life, especially to a healthy mind.