When we’re depressed, the last thing we want to do is reach for a stalk of broccoli.
We want rich, creamy, stick-to-your-ribs foods that’ll make us feel like we’re wrapped in a soft cuddly blanky. The problem is that most of those foods bring with them a host of negative health issues, many of which can cause you to hold onto that soft, cuddly blanky around your midsection long after the depression has receded!
We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat,” right? Well, for those of us who struggle with depression, it’s something we need to take to heart. Eating the wrong kinds of foods can make our symptoms worse (or if you’re on the mend, invite depression right back in again), while eating the right ones can help us rise out of the darkness and/or prevent it from coming back!
Today, we’re going over a simple guide to eating for depression recovery and prevention. We’ll go over the foods you should definitely stay away from, the scientifically-proven ones you should add more of, and some of my favorite recipes to get these depression-lifters into your everyday diet.
We’re big on choices here at Strong Inside Out. Today, I’m providing you with the knowledge so that you can make the informed choice to feel better, or know what your actions mean if you don’t.
First of all, we need to cover what you should definitely stay away from so that your depression doesn’t get worse.
The following are ingredients that, as a trainer, I’d recommend you stay away from,period, whether you’re depressed or not. They’re even bigger no-no’s if you’ve been diagnosed with the big D.
Avoid these foods most of the time:
- Refined sugars
- Processed grains
- Trans fats
- Sodas (regular and diet)
Foods that cause inflammation in the body like those listed above have been linked to depression. In fact, a recent study showed that people who ate a lot of these foods and not a lot of inflammation-calming foods (like coffee, olive oil and green leafy veggies) were up to 41% more likely to be diagnosed with depression!
Stack the odds in your favor. Don’t give depression any more power by avoiding these ingredients most of the time! You don’t have to swear them off for life, but these aren’t foods you want to eat every single day.
Get Your Nom On
Now, on to the good stuff. Let’s go over foods that will help you rise up out of depression that much faster by supporting your brain’s serotonin production and receptors!
Below, you’ll find recommended nutrient power houses for depressives. We’ll go over why they’re beneficial and then a delicious comfort food recipe so you can take action on your happiness immediately!
In three different studies, Omega-3’s were shown to be helpful in reducing depression symptoms in adults and children. A daily supplement (affiliate link*) is what I typically recommend, but why not get it in your daily diet as well? The easiest way to do so is to eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout or sardines (in moderation because of mercury levels). If you’re not into the fish thing, flax seeds or walnuts can do the trick.
Salmon Burgers with Yogurt-Tartar Sauce from Whole Living
These super-yummy, super-healthy burgers offer a much-needed break from the typical beef burger on a white bun. These babies have a Greek spin that makes them just different enough to be exciting, but not too different to make picky eaters turn their noses up at them.
I recommend using a gluten-free brown rice bun (without added sugars and minimal additives) or just wrapping them in lettuce. You could also put these over a salad or a hearty bowl of quinoa mixed with feta, red onions and olives. Nom nom nom…
Read the full recipe here!
You usually hear about folate when discussing pre-natal vitamins, but this nutrient is another great one for depressives, man and woman alike. Two European studies (1, 2) showed that men who were low in folate were more likely to be depressed. Let’s not play with fire. Be sure to get enough of this nutrient from these sources: beans like lentils and black eyed peas; leafy greens like spinach, endive and romaine; asparagus; and fruits like mango and oranges.
Lentil Spinach Soup from The Garden Grazer (vegan)
This hearty, vegan soup is chock-full of folate. With lentils and spinach, this meal-worthy soup will warm you up even when you’re feeling less-than-stellar. Definitely comfort-food worthy, but without the guilt!
Read the full recipe here!
Tryptophan + Vitamin B6
Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to stock up on this depression-busting nutrient! Tryptophan combined with a little Vitamin B6 can actually turn into serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes happy happen) in the brain. The combination of the 2 is what’s key; without the B6, the Tryptophan will have a hard time getting into the brain at all. Bring them together in your diet by eating foods like chicken, eggs or nuts, or pairing turkey, fish, cottage cheese, eggs or beans with green leafies, legumes, peas or sunflower seeds.
California Chicken, Veggie, Avocado and Rice Bowl by Half Baked Harvest
This yummy bowl has tryptophan galore! I’d give this recipe a few tweaks to make it a little healthier and depression-busting. Substitute quinoa, brown rice or sautéed leafy greens for the white rice, and add a chopped up hard-boiled egg on top and take out all but 2 tablespoons of the blue cheese. The result: a yummy, filling, warm bowl of flavor that’s bound to become a staple in your weekly meal prep!
Read the full recipe here!
There are a ton of healthy options out there for us to start feeling better sooner than later. Other nutrient rockstars that help you become more resilient to depression include:
- Vitamin B12 (in animal protein and eggs)
- Coffee (!!!)
- Antioxidants (like those you get from berries and brightly colored fruits and veggies)
- Vitamin D (get thee outside!)
- Selenium (from lean meat, seafood, beans and nuts)
Basically, the optimal diet for people who struggle with depression is full of colorful fruits and veggies, lean meats, oily fish, nuts and a moderate amount of non-inflammatory whole grains (and only if your body tolerates them well).
So there it is, Strongie. All laid out for you clear as day.
Now that you know what to do to start feeling better, what choice will youmake? Reading about the optimal diet to fight depression is one thing. Taking action to change your own life is quite another.
Before you get overwhelmed, know this: change doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul. You can implement simple, small changes one at a time which will add up to a cumulative lifestyle change.
You’re worth the work it takes to feel better. If you don’t choose the actions that will allow you to lead a happier, healthier life, who will?