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Foods Proven to Help Lift Depression

By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

Dark Chocolate
Feeling blue, down in the dumps, really bumming, or completely miserable… any way you put it, many of us have experienced depression at some point in our lives. Of course, depression can range in severity from general blah-ness (not yet an official medical term) to being completely immobilized or self-destructive.
So how do we treat it? If you can recite as many anti-depressant commercials as I can, you know we love to medicate! Jokes aside, medication has been lifesaver for many, myself included, and there’s absolutely a place for it. But as my man Hippocrates once wrote “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” and research seems to back him up; studies are showing over and over that the foods you put into your body can have a significant impact on depression symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, mood swings, and sleep issues.
If you are ready to take on eating healthier in the name of being happier it’s time to do some adding.
-       Omega 3’s from salmon, ch-ch-ch-chia, flax seeds, and walnuts. In addition to those foods it’s my one daily(ish) supplement. This fatty acid is a major brain and mood booster; if you are going to add one thing, do this.
-       Dark chocolate. An ounce a day helps keep the blues away! Hearing chocolate is beneficial really never gets old. Unfortunately it’s not just any chocolate – the darker the better, so aim for 60% cacao or higher. If you want the optimum benefits, go for raw cacao (an acquired taste).
-       Saffron. Spice things up, literally. Researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that saffron had an antidepressant effect comparable to Prozac. Other potential anti-depressive spices: sage, cardamom, and chilies.
-       Whole grains and beans. Carbs are essential but avoid sending your blood sugar and hormones haywire by skipping the white, processed versions. Whole grains and beans contain fiber that keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels stable. Plus, they contain a whole slew of vitamins like folate and B6 which directly turn into mood-related neurotransmitters.
-            Last but certainly not least is vitamin D. Research has repeatedly shown that people with low vitamin D blood levels are more likely to be depressed. But the best source isn’t edible: getting out in the sunshine for 10-20 min/day will do the trick, as will a supplement of 1000 IU’s daily.
Next week we’ll look at what to cut back on when feeling blue.
Have you dealt with depression? Will you try adding any of these foods in?
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