Depression - it’s one of those words that gets thrown around. It’s often used for being in a bad mood or feeling down. However, when it comes to true depression and suffering this is something which doesn’t get discussed as easily. Much like many mental health issues nutrition and lifestyle can play a huge role in symptoms. This isn’t to say food alone can cure depression but certain nutrients can definitely enhance mood and reduce the risks of tumbling down the dark trap that is depression. Here I’ve laid out my top 5 tips of how to use nutrition to reduce the risks of depression.
1. Vitamin D: vitamin D is synthesised through sunlight exposure. It can be difficult to derive from the diet. Salmon, mushrooms and eggs are the key sources of Vitamin D but other than that it’s fairly difficult to obtain. Research has shown that vitamin D plays a role in enhancing mood and reducing the risk of depression. It is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months in order to reduce the risk of deficiency. The majority of the UK population are walking around severely deficient in vitamin D during the winter due to a lack of exposure. The current recommendations sit at 10ųg.d
2. Zinc: Research has shown a relationship between zinc deficiency and depressive symptoms. The lower zinc status has been associated with more severe symptoms. Some studies have put this down to increased cortisol production in depressed patients, the by product metallothionein binds to zinc and consequently reduces zinc status. Foods rich in zinc include: oysters, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, chicken, nuts, mushrooms and spinach.
3. Folate and B12: Both of these B-vitamins have been associated with depression and a rise in homocysteine levels. It has been hypothesised that high levels of homocysteine contribute to increased risk of cerebral vasculardisease which affects blood flow in the brain, neurotransmitters and consequently reduces mood. Maintain adequate folate and B12 status through: eggs, meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, Marmite, nutritional yeast and avocado.
4. L-tryptophan: This amino acid plays a key role in seretonin production which is commonly referred to as the ‘happy hormone’. Low serotonin is strongly associated with mood disorders and depression. Increase your tryptophan levels through the consumption of foods such as cheese, tofu, turkey, fish, oats, beans and lentils.
5. Selenium: Recent research has suggested an association between low selenium status and depression. Selenium is required for the production of glutathione peroxidase (a selenoprotein) which is an antioxidant. GP reduces the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the cell membranes from becoming oxidised. Studies have suggested that the link between selenium and depression is down to the role of the selenoproteins. Foods rich in selenium include oysters, brazil nuts, fish, turkey and chicken.
There you have some of the key nutrients associated with depression. Ensure you’re consuming a wide variety of sources to reduce the risks and symptoms associated with low mood and depression.