How Changing Your Diet Can Help With Depression

depression, worried man, couple, fighting

Source: iStock

Are you tired of feeling down but are not interested in taking pharmaceuticals? Or maybe you’ve put all your hopes in medication to treat depression without the results that had been promised? Or perhaps you have achieved good results with medication, but can no longer tolerate the side effects? If any of these perspectives apply to you, you’ll be happy to find out that changing your diet and exercise habits play an important role in treating depression. Dig into this article for some of the best strategies in overcoming depression.

An important note: This information should not be misinterpreted as medical advice. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, please consult your doctor.

How pharmaceuticals rely on the placebo effect

The pharmaceutical industry has spent billions on advertising to make sure we have faith in their products. So we gobble up the pills, feel better for a while, and then thank our lucky stars for modern medicine in between relapses. But for years the double blind studies have shown that placebo pills have the same effect in treating depression.

Janis Schonfield, who suffered from chronic depression for 30 years, participated in a double blind study in assessing the effectiveness of the antidepressant Effexor. She didn’t know that she was given a sugar pill, but Janis experienced the same side effects as the real drug, and within a matter of weeks she totally reversed her depression.

After Janis was told that a sugar pill had cured her, she, like many participants, fully believed that researchers had made a mistake. But the results weren’t just anecdotal; Janis’s prefrontal cortex activity was greatly increased as a result of the placebo.

Since science has demonstrated that the effects of depression medication stems mainly from the mind, entertaining ideas like diet and exercise is eminently more conceivable.

How diet can relieve symptoms of depression

healthy diet, vegetables, fish

Source: iStock

No matter what fascinating technologies we come up with, the human body will always amaze us. We have adapted to nearly every climate zone, reproduce even under extraordinary stress, and can thrive on just about any food source. But without proper calorie, nutrient, and vitamin intake, we can suffer from imbalances that impact our mental health.

Your mood is maintained by dozens of neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, taurine, and GABA. The basis for many of these neurotransmitters are amino acids, and when you lack quality and diversity in your diet, your body will have a harder time manufacturing neurotransmitters that maintain your mood.

If your diet isn’t replete with high quality proteins, like fish, grass-fed beef, lamb, and chicken, and an assortment of leafy greens, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains, then you may lack the building blocks that create chemical balance in your brain.

Experiment with adding whole and organic foods to your diet for a month and notice the profound change in your mood. Check out this awesome list for simple meal ideas that incorporate all the right foods for your mental health.

But it’s hard to eat all of these nourishing foods when you are on the go, so commit to sitting down for dinner at least three nights a week and watch your mood improve.

Food for guys

Low testosterone has been associated with depression risk in men. Thankfully, there are several foods that are famous for boosting testosterone production. If low testosterone is contributing to your depression, here are a list of foods that you can incorporate to enhance your mood and vitality:

  • Coconut products, palm oil, and butter are high in saturated fat, which is important in manufacturing testosterone.
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which is a mineral essential to testosterone production.
  • Eggs are high in cholesterol, which is the base for all hormones to include testosterone.
  • Steak is rich in saturated fats, cholesterol, and protein which helps to synthesize muscle growth and fuel testosterone production.
  • Tuna, salmon, shrimp, and mackerel are all high in vitamin D, which is strongly correlated with testosterone production.

How exercise boosts mood

Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The human body is designed to move. Our ancestors ranged from three to nine miles per day on average, and tribes like the Tarahumara run upwards of 100 miles routinely. Humans also outcompete horses in 50+ mile endurance events, so it safe to say that we are born to move; and if we are born to move, then we are happiest when moving regularly. If you don’t want to rest on that assumption, check out this study, this one, or this one, all of which show the effectiveness of different types of exercise in treating depression.

If you think exercise can be an effective approach in balancing your mood, be advised to start slowly. There is nothing quite as depressing as getting injured and sitting on the sidelines when you’re excited to improve your life, so ease into any new routine that you adopt.

Running

Running is one of the best exercises to alleviate depression, but it also carries substantial risk for injury; part of that risk has to do with the footwear that athletes sport. Expensive shoes generally have the most support built into them, and while they may feel comfortable, the added support actually works against the smoothness of your stride. The sole of your feet are packed with nerve endings and that nerve density gives you bio-feedback for proper foot strikes and strides. The more padding you put between your feet and the earth, the less you’ll be able to respond to your environment. So if you want to run, try going minimalist.

People who have opted for barefoot style running have found that leg and lower back pain melt away as their feet get stronger. So try footwear like vibram five fingers or Earth Runner huarache sandals to beat the injuries that plague so many runners.

Best exercises for men

Since testosterone is so important in maintaining mood for men, anabolic exercises and strength training can make a positive impact on your world-view. Follow this link for information on the best testosterone (and mood) boosting exercises, like squat jumps and muscle-ups.

Taking a multifaceted and committed approach to dealing with depression can be a satisfying way to not only beat depression, but to live a rich and meaningful life. If you can persist in new lifestyle changes and eating habits, you’ll have a great chance of boosting your mood without stuffing the pockets of pharmaceutical executives. Already implemented these strategies? Here’s how you can deal with the emotional aspects of depression.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: