As I was reading this article from the Mayo clinic this morning, it got me thinking.. is this another chicken or egg debate? I already told you, for the past few months we have been eating out daily, sometimes more than once a day… its terrible and my kids have noticed and my eldest has not so kindly pointed it out…. If our diet can make us more susceptible to depression, then it would lead one to believe that what we eat while we are depressed makes us even more depressed. Another double edged viscous cycle of depression. If this is true, we can also postulate that by changing what we eat, we might be able to make our depression better, right?
So, this article discusses the link between food and the brain and discusses different nutritional strategies to help get out of the cycle. If we follow their Action Plan for getting out depression, our diet will start to look a little different. Being the realist that I am, I recognize that those of us with depression have to be willing to go grocery shopping and prepare food. If we are deep in the cycle, this may be more difficult that it sounds and “the others” definately will not understand just how difficult this might be. So let’s take some baby steps and break it down into something we might be able manage…. something we can realistically follow to see if it really does help.
The first thing we want to do is boost our Omega 3 levels. This means fish and flax seeds. Let’s realistically say that we are NOT going to cook fish twice a week if we are deep in the throws of depression. So, we can eat flax seeds and supplement with fish oil. Of course the food sources are always better for us than the supplements but I am thinking any Omega 3 is better than a whopper or big mac, right? So, let’s shoot for the recommended 1000 mg/day. Most fish oil capsules I have seen on the shelf already have the recommended doses. Most experts recommend a 3:2 ratio of EPA to DHA, but I have also read some that recommend higher levels of EPA, as in a 7:1 ratio, I have even seen a 10:1 ratio. I am not going to worry about the ratio right now, except to say, lets go find a 1000mg supplement with as much EPA as possible and see if this helps our mood.
Next, we want to work on our homocysteine and Vitamin B needs. Too much homocysteine is bad and is an indicator that our B2,B6,B12 and folic acid intake are low. So, we want a supplement that provides at least 250 mcg of B12, 400 mcg of folic acid and 20 mg of B6. Of course, food rich in B vitamins are always better than supplements, so we will need to look at our diet again.. But dont worry, I am with you, I am still too depressed to cook, so we are going to look for some easy sources. Some good sources are whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegies, nuts, fish, eggs and dairy produce… so consider this. What if we eat a bowl of whole grain cereal, fortified with Vitamin B and some milk. If we add only this to our diet, we are surely getting more B vitamins than we were living on pizza an burgers. If we put fortified soy milk in the cereal instead of regular milk, we will get 50% of the daily recommended value of B12. Next, lets add a bit of yogurt to our lunch menu (still not cooking) and we have added a little more. Also, fruits and vegetables are easy. Just buy what you like and snack on fruits when you want something sweet and some veggies when you are craving something crunchy. I know, not as much fun as eating chocolate and chips but heck, I dont have to cook, I dont even have to go through the drive thru. If I have one good day, long enough to get myself to the grocery store, I can stock my fridge with fruits and veggies, yogurt and soy milk. I can get some whole grain, fortified cereal (with a good amount of fiber) and some tuna for the pantry. I can grab a few supplements and wala, I should be well on my way out of this depression in a few days… if diet truly does impact it. I am willing to try it! My laziness keeps me from eating more than once a day right now, so if I stock my kitchen with some no work, healthy options, I might actually be able to do this (all I have to do is drag myself down the stairs). Since I am 50 pounds overweight already, the change in my diet could give me more benefits.
Vitamin D is up next and incidentally, if we were cooking, we would be able to add salmon to our diet to get the benefits of both vitamin D and omega 3s, the same goes for tuna and some other fish. But, we are trying to make this easy.. so besides supplements, we should look for vitamin D in our fortified whole grain cereal and milk. Ricotta cheese is also a good source of vitamin D, although I dont know many people that will eat ricotta cheese by itself. However, if we buy a nice head of dark leafy green lettuce like romaine and use flax seed oil and vinegar as our dressing, we could add some ricotta and maybe some tuna and even some chopped shitake mushrooms to get our daily dose of vitamin D, still without cooking and little prep time. (If we are really feeling bad, we can always buy the bagged salad as long as we wash it well). This looks like it will be easy!!! Finally, 2,000iu of Vitamin D for12 weeks. Also, if we can get out and walk the dog around the block for a little sunshine and exercise we are going to add some vitamin D and get the benefits of exercise.
Next up: Chromium, you dont hear much about this little power house, but this stuff can not only help us eliminate that cysteine we talked about earlier, it can help our blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance and blood sugar levels and triglycerides. WOW! All that processed food we have been eating is depleting our body of this vital nutrient. Once again, that fortified whole grain cereal, and adding some fresh tomatoes to our lunch time salad can give us a little boost. But, Ultimately, we want to add 200 to 600 mcg of supplement to our diet.
Now, let’s look at magnesium consumption.. we can add this to our diet with Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, peanuts. (Green leafy vegetables and whole grains are also high in magnesium.) Again, these are quick and easy grab and go snack and we can add some to our daily salad for a little crunch!
Now, we should consider adding some amino acids. But, we still are not ready to cook, so lets get ourselves some green tee. We should be cutting out all the sugar anyway, so maybe we can brew some nice cold green tea to drink or have a nice warm mug of green tea with our cereal in the morning. The green tea is full of the amino acid L-theanine is an amino acid found mainly in the tea leaves; it’s been shown by EEG tests to stimulate alpha brain waves. This can improve focus while also having a calming effect on the body.
Another suggestion is getting some raw cacao in our diet for a selenium boost. Brazil nuts are a great source. Also there are some vitamins that contain cacao. Cacao can be good for mood because it releases endorphins in the brain, but watch out for milk chocolate and candy varieties high in sugar.
We can also add some wheat germ to our cereal in the morning or our lunch time salad. Just two tablespoons will add 4g of protein, 2 g of fiber and is low in sugar and only adds 60 calories to our diet. This is better than some nutrient powders. You can mix it into all kinds of recipes, like oatmeal, fruit or even simple salads. Some people even use it as an ice cream topping!
I will try to put together a printable grocery list for us to use and come back later…