Did you know that nutrition plays an important role in mental health? A number of studies have shown that certain nutrients can help prevent depression and other psychiatric conditions like OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) and bipolar disorder, while others are linked to alleviating anxiety and stress.
Mental health is the cornerstone of any healthy lifestyle, but there’s one aspect of mental wellness that’s often overlooked – balanced nutrition. What you eat directly impacts your ability to think clearly, maintain focus, and regulate your mood.
If you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, your mental health will be negatively affected. This blog post explores the links between nutritional deficiency and depression and explains how to use a proper diet to improve your mental health and well-being.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental disorder that makes people feel sad, hopeless, helpless, and worthless. It’s more than just feeling down for a few days. Depression causes serious problems with thinking, moods, and behavior.
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As a result of these symptoms, depressed people often find it difficult to carry out everyday tasks and respond to changes in their environment. Depression affects men and women equally, regardless of age or race/ethnicity.
Can nutrition be a major cause of depression?
Nutrition plays a major role in our mental health. If your body is lacking nutrients, it can cause cravings for food that's not good for us, which could lead to unhealthy eating and serious malnutrition in extreme cases. According to recent research, there are deficiencies related to neurotransmitters (chemicals involved in brain activity) that can affect emotional well-being. Serotonin is one of these neurotransmitters; low levels can cause anxiety, mood swings, and depression.
Are you getting everything your body needs?
If mental health is a priority, then balanced nutrition should be a priority. Not only does your diet affect your physical health, but it also impacts your mental state. For example, eating too much sugar and refined carbs can make depression worse.
If you’re feeling depressed and are having trouble pinpointing what might be triggering these feelings, take a step back to assess whether or not you’re getting everything your body needs in terms of balanced nutrition.
Approaching mental health with thoughtful strategies isn’t just an obligation; it’s an opportunity to improve one of our greatest gifts—our mind.
- Iron deficiency
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
- Amino acids
Iron deficiency in mental health:
Anemia symptoms include pale skin, tiredness, inability to concentrate, and depression. It can also make you irritable and cause problems with your vision. Iron is an essential mineral that helps red blood cells transfer oxygen around your body.
Some good sources of iron-rich foods are lean red meat, veal, poultry, fish, and shellfish. Other sources include beans and lentils, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and nuts. Lean red meat is a particularly good source because it contains heme iron which is absorbed more readily by your body than non-heme iron found in other animal products. To get all of these benefits you have to eat them with Vitamin C as it enhances absorption significantly.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms:
Vitamin B12 is a critical vitamin and nutrient for a healthy body. Along with other important nutrients, it helps provide energy to our body keeps our metabolism up, and keeps our mood balanced.
In fact, there’s a pretty big link between low Vitamin B12 levels and major depression symptoms that can plague your life every day. If you think you might be deficient in Vitamin B12 or are wondering how to test for it, we’ll walk through how to get tested today!
Some good sources of Vitamin B12 are meats, eggs, fish, and dairy products. Nutritional yeast is also a good source; it’s a great substitute for cheese! And if you don’t like to consume foods that come from animals such as fish or beef, there are some great vegan options in plant-based foods that have large amounts of Vitamin B12 as well.
Magnesium deficiency symptoms
More than 350 enzymes need magnesium in order to work properly. Insufficient levels of magnesium can interfere with those enzymes. This, in turn, can interfere with chemical reactions involved in both brain function and mood regulation.
Some medical studies have found that increasing your intake of magnesium can help decrease symptoms of depression. If you think that a lack of magnesium may be contributing to your depression, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement or eating more foods high in magnesium—particularly dark leafy greens, nuts, beans, and lentils.
Vitamin D deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin D helps regulate how our bodies absorb calcium. When we’re deficient in vitamin D, it’s harder for us to assimilate calcium and convert it into energy. This can lead to mood swings, irritability, increased fatigue, depression, and insomnia.
- Foods high in Vitamin D
- Fatty fish like sardines
- Mackerel and salmon
- Egg yolks
Omega 3 fatty acids deficiency symptoms
Depression is one of the most common symptoms of omega 3 fatty acids deficiency. It is an essential nutrient that is responsible for many of your body’s processes. Omega 3 fatty acids help with mood stability, sleep, and overall brain function.
Deficiency in these nutrients can result in memory loss, depression, and more serious mental disorders like schizophrenia. An adequate amount of omega 3 helps prevent many diseases associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, and bipolar disorder.
Foods having good levels of omega 3 also lowers your risk of developing heart problems such as heart attacks or strokes.
People with low levels of DHA have a higher chance of suffering from high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, and depression. You must include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet if you want to lower your chances of developing any health issues associated with them. Omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, nuts, seeds, and herring.
Fluoride deficiency symptoms
Depression is one of many different symptoms associated with fluoride deficiency. Fluoride is naturally occurring in water and soil. It’s also added to public drinking water systems, and toothpaste, to prevent cavities and help fight gum disease. If your diet or environment lacks fluorine, you may start to experience anxiety or depressed moods. Fluoride-rich foods are plants such as mushrooms, eggs, spinach, and legumes (peas).
- Depression and lack of micronutrients are common public health problems, especially in rural areas. Inadequate selenium intake affects mental health and contributes to major depressive disorder.
- Folic acid is needed to make the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which decrease depression. Thus, a folate-deficient person may face fluctuations in the mood due to lower levels of happy hormones in their system.
- When you have low iodine then your thyroid can't make enough thyroid hormone which leads to a condition called hypothyroidism. It can also be one of the reasons for depression.
- Zinc deficiency can lead to depression, increased anxiety, crankiness, emotional fluctuation, and causes deficits in social behavior. Certain studies have cited the role of zinc in the development and treatment of mood disorders.
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid and the essential precursors of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) an important neurotransmitter for mood regulation.
Nutritional deficiencies can be managed.
Diet is a basis of health and a focus in the treatment of mental health. Inadequate nutrition has not only been correlated to depression but also anxiety, sleep disorders, and inflammation-related ailments.
The importance of real food!
Having balanced nutrition is essential to your mental health, and eating too many processed foods can lead to depression. Here are a few signs that you’re consuming enough real food: feeling good, sleeping well, and having higher energy levels. If these things aren’t happening for you, it might be time to clean up your diet.
Other reasons that may cause depression:
- Sleep deprivation
- Lack of exercise