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Eating to Control Depression

Eat Your Blues Away

Do you find yourself sometimes feeling depressed? This is an especially prevalent condition in the winter. Being tired or bored can also lead to depression. Before you rush off to the medicine cabinet for that little blue or white pill, you just might want to think of going to the kitchen instead.

The key to a better mood might be in the food you eat. Most of us know that eating chocolate can make us feel good. Not, mind you, that I’m suggesting pigging out on chocolate bars; the sugar in chocolate can pose other health problems. But, changing your eating habits can have a significant effect on how you feel.

The mood hormone in our brain, serotonin, is directly affected by what we eat. Foods that are high in fiber and protein, such as nuts, whole grains and vegetables can stimulate serotonin production and help keep our blood sugar levels stable. This goes a long way toward keeping our mood “up.” This is the danger of using chocolate as our comfort food. The sugar we ingest with chocolate give us an almost instant high, but it is inevitably followed by a crash. The same thing is true of alcohol and caffeine. A shot of either can boost our spirits for a few moments, but when the effects wear off, we are often in a worse mood than when we started. Alcohol, in fact, depletes the serotonin in your body, so the high’ you experience from a shot of booze is artificial at best.

Foods that are high in fiber, on the other hand, because they take a long time to digest, give the body a long-term boost. A couple of celery sticks will help your body produce mood-enhancing serotonin over a much longer period than two cups of coffee, and have the added advantage of not affecting your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Jack Challem (http://www.thenutritionreporter.com/), author of “The Food-Mood Solution,” recommends foods high in fiber and non-fat protein foods (like nuts) as an excellent source of mood-enhancing sustenance.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and fish oil supplements, is another nutrient that helps to increase production of serotonin, as is oatmeal. These foods increase tryptophan, an amino acid that helps in the production of this mood-enhancer.

People with high energy levels generally have more positive moods and are less subject to depression than couch potatoes and those who are always tired. Being tired can cause crankiness and depression. In addition to the foods previously mentioned that can help overcome chronic fatigue, avoiding certain foods can contribute to a brighter mood.

Avoid, or at least minimize, foods high in fats, especially saturated fats. Trans-fats should be completely eliminated from your diet. The body goes into overdrive when a lot of fat is part of your diet, like a space craft that shunts energy to essential systems such as life-support; it diverts energy to the task of breaking these fats down in your system. Just think about how drowsy you feel after a large holiday meal. That fatigue is due to your body turning down serotonin production as it copes with all that fat clogging your arteries.

A small amount of coffee is not harmful, but like anything, it should be taken in moderation. A little caffeine can give you a boost, but too much and you reduce serotonin. Worse, it can make it difficult to get the sleep your body needs to repair itself. The same thing goes for alcohol. Many doctors recommend a glass of red wine as an excellent way to control blood pressure. Too much, however, and you risk a mood crash.

Vegans argue for a completely vegetarian diet. The danger here is that the body also needs proteins in order to function properly. Red meats, like beef, can be hard to digest and are frankly not the best source of protein. Nuts, such as peanuts and almonds, are a much better, cholesterol-free source of necessary protein. Fish are an excellent source of Omega-3 and vitamin D. Orange juice is also a good source of vitamin D and C; the latter being an antioxidant that helps to retard the negative effects of aging, and provides a boost to the immune system.

Chicken and pork, with the fatty outer layer of skin removed and cooked with the minimum of oil (preferably low-fat vegetable oil), should be on every non-vegetarian table, along with generous helpings of vegetables and fruits.

Along with that healthy diet, don’t forget the importance of exercise. Regular exercise that stretches the muscles and increases blood circulation can go a long way toward improving the way you feel. You don’t need an expensive health club membership, or huge blocks of time, to achieve a level of exercise that will improve your health and your mood. Walking vigorously throughout the day, every day, is an excellent cardio-vascular activity. Whenever possible, take the stairs rather than the elevator. If you are an office worker, don’t sit in one place for extended periods of time. Get up now and then and stretch; walk out to the water cooler and spend a few moments chatting with co-workers (assuming you don’t work for a micromanaging ogre who frowns upon such practices). Instead of using your lunch hour to wolf down an excess of carbohydrates and fat, eat a light lunch and spend the bulk of that time walking around your neighborhood. This is not only an excellent way to exercise, but it gives you the opportunity to know the area and get to know other people around you. This in itself can improve your mood.

Like coffee and alcohol, exercise should be in moderation. Don’t overdo it. Your objective is not to become the next Mr. Universe. Know your limits and respect them. Power walking is preferable to jogging, because it does less damage to your knees, and does not require the investment of time that running demands. A little weight lifting is helpful to build structural strength, which helps your body better resist disease and injury; but don’t try to break bench pressing records. Torn muscles take longer to heal when you are older, and aren’t worth whatever benefits the attempt might offer.

You don’t have to suffer depression. Rather than allowing sadness and depression to eat away at you, with a little common sense, you can eat your blues away.