Dietary Means for Treating Depression

As I worked on my classwork for my masters degree in mental health counseling, I became aware of how much our mental health is affected by lifestyle choices. As I worked with clients, I realized that many of them ate junk on a regular basis. I started researching the effect of food and behavior. Today I want to share with you some information gathered from my research over the past several years on how to treat depression naturally. Remember, I am not a medical doctor. Nor is any information on this site to be taken as medical advice. I’m simply sharing information I have gathered for you to educate yourself so you can make the best choices for your own health. As usual, this is not to take the place of a Doctor’s guidance.

Depression is a multi-factorial disease. That means, it can be caused by many potential causes. That being the case, you have to go about treating it on many fronts. Today we are going to learn about some dietary choices one can make to help in the treatment of depression.

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the brain, particularly in the frontal lobe. This is an area that needs to be vitally enhanced in depressed patients. The brain can not make any serotonin unless tryptophan is first present. Since appetite is normally lessened in depressed individuals, the foods they do eat need to be high in tryptophan.

Foods that are high in tryptophan are tofu (747mg), flax seeds (644mg), roasted pumpkin seeds (578mg), gluten flour (510mg), almonds (322mg), black walnuts (290mg), and whole milk (46mg).

Many people believe that milk is the best source of tryptophan, but you can see that it is very low. Five large amino acids compete against tryptophan in traveling to the brain. Thus, you can still be deficient in tryptophan if you are eating a diet high in these amino acids.

Foods high in these five amino acids are chicken, beef, salmon, and whole milk.

Omega3 fats are emerging as an important nutritional element in brain science. There are actually two types of fats that are absolutely essential in our diets – omega 6 and omega 3 fats.

The omega 6 fats are abundant in many foods, so it is extremely rare to see mental or physical problems develop due to shortage. Omega 3 fats are not so abundant, so it is more common to see adverse effects from a diet too low in omega 3.

The lower the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, the higher the rate of depression. Recent research demonstrates that bipolar disorder, in addition to major depression, can be helped by a diet high in omega 3.

The best source for omega 3 is plant based sources. A lot of people use fish to get their omega 3, which is gotten from seaweed. Sources for omega 3 are: flaxseed oil (7520mg), walnuts (2043mg), soybean oil (927 mg), spinach (343mg), almonds (127mg), strawberries (90 mg), and banana (39mg). There are many other foods that have omega 3s in them. It is recommended to take at least 9 g of omega 3 a day.

A folic acid deficiency can be a direct cause of depression. The RDA for folate (folic acid) is 400 micrograms. In a meat based diet, it is very hard to reach the recommended amounts. In a plant based diet, it is very easy to reach the recommended amounts. Some sources of folate are: chickpeas (1114mcg), lentils (1057 mcg), navy beans (255 mcg), spinach (109 mcg), orange juice (75 mcg), and sirloin steak (16). Patients depressed due to folate deficiency tend not to get better with antidepressants. It is diet that needs to be change.

Another nutrient that is vital for optimal brain functions, including avoidance of a depressed mood, is Vitamin B12. Plant sources that are not fortified do not contain B12 unless they are grown in soils with organic fertilizers that are very rich in B12. Sources of B12 are: dry cereal (6mcg), steak (2.85mcg), egg (1 mcg), soy milk (1 mcg), whole milk (.36 mcg), and spinach (.02 mcg).

Here are just some of the dietary changes that can be made to help with the treatment with depression. It is not hard to make these changes. Just a little change here and there will make a big change in how one feels in one’s mood. Try it.