If you feel “down” more often that you feel “up”, you may be among the growing number of people who suffer from depression, and for some, although it may sound too simple, the answer lies in food choices.
I’m one of those people who usually wakes up to greet every day with enthusiasm; when my daughter was young, she was like that too, but as a teenager, she often barely spoke to me until later in the day, and couldn’t find much to get excited about. I had to force her to do the jobs on her chore list; she always claimed to be tired, even when she had just slept ten hours.
I thought hormone changes were to blame; after all, teenagers are known for their mood swings. It took me a while to realize that recent changes in her eating habits were part of the problem.
I’ve always believed in good nutrition. I raised my children on whole, unprocessed foods so they could get what they needed to be healthy. But when young adults spend more time away from home with money in their pockets from part-time work, they eat what they like.
My daughter had developed a fondness for croissants, as well as generous amounts of candy, mostly chocolate. She depended on coffee (with a ton of cream and sugar), or Mountain Dew (a caffeine-and-sugar-laden soft drink) to give her energy for school and work.
Maybe Eva was testing out her newly-found freedom by eating foods she didn’t get often as a child, but teenagers aren’t the only ones who fall into the trap of poor nutrition and pay a high price without understanding the cause.
When Your Emotions Get the Upper Hand
Emotions are part of what make us all human, but poor dietary choices can cause false bad moods that make us feel sad or apathetic when our circumstances can’t be blamed.
Biochemical processes are dependent on the fuel we provide through food choices. We have four different types of chemicals that affect mood: serotonin, endorphins, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and catecholamines. Deficiencies can be caused by stress, a lack of specific nutrients, genetics, or a combination of these, as well as other factors.
If you have trouble with bad moods regularly, you may want to take a close look at the foods you’re eating.
Julia Ross, M.A., is a nutritional psychologist and the author of The Mood Cure: the 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions – Today. She believes many people who feel depressed or lethargic can make quick improvements by avoiding certain foods.
After reading the introduction to her book, I was hooked. I wanted my daughter back, the one who smiled and laughed in the morning, who enjoyed the social and academic challenges of school, and who had energy in the evening for helping with dinner and maybe even taking a stroll before dark.
In Dr. Ross’s book, she proposes:
“. . . that much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily corrected malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry – malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs . . . when your food quality or quantity deteriorates, mood is the first casualty, even before your physical health begins to deteriorate.”
“Bad Mood” Foods
Most people understand that refined foods like white flour and sugar aren’t good nutritional choices, but did you know eating them regularly can put you in a bad mood? These two foods top Dr. Ross’s list of “bad mood” foods.
Let’s take a look at what else she recommends avoiding as a natural cure for depression.
- Both caffeine and aspartame (an artificial sweetener) interfere with serotonin production.
- Junk foods rob you of vital nutrients while decreasing your appetite for healthy foods.
- Foods made from soybeans decrease thyroid function, making you feel sluggish and depressed.
- Grains, including barley, oats, rye and wheat, can be a problem for some people.
- Processed oils like safflower, sunflower, peanut, and canola are often rancid, leading to inflammation that causes neurotransmitter malfunctions in the brain; choose healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil.
Getting plenty of protein-rich foods, including meat, eggs and fish, along with fresh vegetables and fruits, will help you get the nutrients you need for efficient biochemistry. Limiting or forgoing refined carbohydrates like bread, white rice, pasta and anything with sugar is a good bet for feeling cheerful and full of energy.
Eva wasn’t receptive to my ideas when I first talked to her about using food choices as a natural cure for depression, but mothers don’t give up easy, and eventually she agreed to try eating better for a week to see if it made any difference in the way she felt.
By the end of that week, she was a whole different person! She felt rested after sleeping seven or eight hours, she was animated and chatty in the mornings, and got her chores done without nagging.
Feeling better inspired Eva to cut back on the white flour and sugar. Smart food choices turned Eva around in seven days, and it might do the same for you (or someone you love).
Dump the junk and get happy. If you try this natural remedy for depression, let us know how it works for you in the comment section.