Sunday, November 4, 2007

Is My Diet Making Me Depressed?

Is My Diet Making Me Depressed?

Recently I have been learning more about the connection between food and mood. What we eat, our nutrition, and the right amount of vitamins and minerals in our bodies can help improve our moods. Nutritional deficiencies and food allergies can mimic symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Common nutritional deficiencies that may cause depression

If our bodies are deficient in vitamins and minerals they often exhibit symptoms of depression or anxiety. These include chromium, magnesium, zinc, thiamine, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and iron.

Common symptoms of chromium deficiency include anxiety, fatigue, depression, low self esteem, weight gain and carbohydrate cravings. Chromium can be found in foods such as American cheese, wheat germ, chicken, fish, orange juice, fruits, whole grains, carrots, potatoes, and spinach. It is also helpful to avoid sugar, soda, refined white flour, cereals, spices (black pepper, thyme), mushrooms, brown sugar, coffee, tea, beer, broccoli, romaine lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. See the Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet from the National Institutes of Health for more information: NIH chromium fact sheet

Another mineral that is commonly lacking in our diets is magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is evidenced with symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, anger, excitability, headaches, confusion, apathy, insomnia, and hyperactivity. Magnesium is commonly found in peanuts, almonds, soy flour, bran flakes, whole wheat, raw brown rice, avocado, wheat bran, low fat milk, shrimp, tuna, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, walnuts, potatoes, bananas, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens. See the NIH magnesium fact sheet.

Zinc is also a mineral commonly overlooked in our diets. Apathy, depression, fatigue, irritability, weight loss, and attention deficit are some of the common symptoms. Zinc can be found in pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, soy beans, wheat germ, wheat bran, sesame seeds, cocoa, sunflower seeds, corn, rice, oats, cheese, peas, barley, turkey, almonds, peanuts, wholegrain flours, and brown rice. See the NIH zinc fact sheet.

What Can I Do?

  • Assess your diet and increase intake of fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish.
  • Decrease your intake of processed foods, sugars, and fast food.
  • Assess your stress level – increased stress can affect your body’s absorption of nutrients.
  • Talk to your doctor, or make an appointment with a Certified Clinical Nutritionist about your diet and whether or not you may have nutritional deficits. They may recommend nutritional supplements. Do not take any nutritional supplements without discussing them with your doctor as they could interact with other medications or be otherwise harmful.
  • Take a multivitamin. Tests the absorption level of your vitamins and supplements in a glass of water. They should dissolve completely within 30 minutes in order for them to be absorbed within our bodies.