Sometimes, when they’re depressed, people eat to help them cope or to make them feel better. Unfortunately, the foods people turn to have the opposite effect. Eating junk food when you’re depressed can actually make you feel even worse. Some of the worst culprits are foods that contain large amounts of the following:
- saturated fat
- refined sugars
- heavily processed ingredients
Sticking to a healthy diet and making sure that you exercise regularly can help you manage your depression symptoms. It may even make them go away entirely.
Foods to Avoid
Eating regular meals at regular intervals is the first step of a healthy diet. The next step is picking the right foods.
Caffeine and Sugary Foods
Caffeine may be difficult for many people to completely eliminate from their diet. However, it is good to only have caffeinated drinks in moderation, particularly when you are experiencing depression-like symptoms. Caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns and make you feel anxious, both of which won’t help your depression. People who drink more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, the equivalent of four cups of brewed coffee, should consider cutting back.
Avoiding refined sugar is another way to help your mood. Sugar may make you feel more energized at first, but it won’t take long for you to crash. Instead, stick with foods that will keep your blood sugar at an even level. Eating the following foods will give you a steady level of energy:
- lean protein
- complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains
- fruits and vegetables
Alcohol and Illegal Drugs
When you’re feeling depressed, it can be easy to turn to alcohol or other methods of “self-medication.” You may feel short-term relief, but these substances usually only make things worse. Alcohol and drugs throw off your sleep cycles, and cause mood swings and anxiety. If you’re taking any prescription medications, alcohol and drugs can make you experience negative side effects, and they can even stop your medications from working.
Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble abstaining from drugs or alcohol. They can recommend you to programs that can help you get sober.
Foods that Might Help
'Good' Carbs to Boost Mood
Eating carbohydrates triggers your brain to release the mood-lifting neurotransmitter serotonin. So instead of trying to avoid them, eating the right kind of carbs can be a good choice when you’re feeling down. Stick to whole-grain breads and other healthy carbohydrates. Try to stay away from the sugary snack foods, and go for:
- foods high in fiber
The main benefit associated with omega-3s is improved brain function. However, several studies have shown that foods that have omega-3s can also help you manage your depression symptoms. Foods that are good sources of omega-3s include:
- canola oil
- flaxseed oil
- dark-green leafy vegetables
Several studies have shown that people who have deficient levels of vitamin D are more like to experience depression-related symptoms. You can get vitamin D from the sun, but you can also get it from your food. Make sure you regularly eat foods containing vitamin D, such as:
Selenium is an element that is essential for good health. Several studies have suggested a link between selenium deficiencies and depression. Some additional research studies have indicated that taking selenium may decrease feelings of depression. Selenium can be found in:
- whole grains
- lean meats
Too much selenium can be toxic, however, so talk to your doctor before taking any selenium supplements.
The many physical benefits of maintaining a balanced, healthy diet are well-known. However, you may not know how those same simple dietary tips can help to elevate mood, energy levels, and an overall sense of well-being. When you’re feeling depressed, or even negatively affected by a change in the seasons, knowing the right foods to eat can help you overcome those symptoms and keep depression at bay.