Foods That Help Depression
Full Disclosure: I know what it’s like
People get defensive about their depression. They get pissed at hearing possible solutions to their depression. When you’re feeling depressed, hearing about changes you can make feels like a personal attack. Like an insinuation that you have an option. And I know depression doesn’t feel optional when it has a firm grip on your mind and body.
Another part of the defensiveness comes from a complete lack of hope. If you’re so depressed that you can’t even muster the energy to shower, it sounds unbelievable that changing the way you eat can make you feel better. When depression is smothering you, anything conveying hope tends to sound like b.s.
Let me quell any embers of resentment right now by saying I know depression intimately. I’ve slow danced with the musty bastard plenty of times. And that’s why I’ve made a career out of health, fitness, and self-improvement. Without health and fitness, the occasional visit from the depression-beast would be a more permanent situation. I’d wake up each morning with the worthless fellow laying a pile of bricks on my chest, saying “Here’s to another day of your world being as flat and gray as a winter in Iowa. Let’s do nothing and wallow in our apathy.” But thankfully, about 85% of my days are good ones, full of connection and productivity. I owe these good days to the laundry list of habits I’ve adopted. One of the most important is eating for optimal health.
Depression hates healthy food, self-care, nurturing exercise and anything else productive. Eating an optimized diet is like garlic to your depression-vampire, a repellant to a blood sucking pest, drain-o to the sewer creature living in the pipes of your brain. God, this post is getting macabre. Here’s a picture of puppies to lighten the mood.
Bottom line: You can start taking proactive steps to let some light in, and to start feeling a little better every day. You don’t have to wait to feel better, you can start taking steps today, right now. Diet is the low hanging fruit, and that’s where we’ll start. Here are some dietary changes you can add to your life to start feeling better within a few weeks.
Depression is not a disease. It is a symptom.
Research is piling up showing that depression isn’t a disease. That it’s likely a reaction to glitches in the immune system and inflammatory pathways, and also a reaction to gut dysfunction. (1) (2) As Dr. Kelly Brogran summarizes in her book, “Higher inflammatory markers significantly increase the risk of developing depression. And these levels parallel the depth of depression: higher levels equates with more severe depression.”
One study injected perfectly healthy, happy people and triggered their bodies into inflammatory states. These people quickly showed classic signs of depression (3). Something similar happened to 45 percent of patients treated with the pro-inflammatory drug, interferon, in a separate study (4)
So what causes inflammation and gut dysfunction? In a nutshell, our modern foods and lifestyle choices; the lack of nutrients in packaged and processed foods, the high amounts of sugar and carbohydrates, and the general inactivity are very inflammatory to the human body.
The bowl of sugary granola, cereal, or pastry in the morning is inflammatory. The extra ten to twenty pounds we gain each year is inflammatory. The stressful drive to work is inflammatory. The lack of sunshine is inflammatory. As weird as it sounds, sitting for more than a few hours per day without any walking is very inflammatory. The standard take-out dinner is inflammatory. The lack of connection with friends or family, or even with ourselves is inflammatory. All of these little fires add up to one raging blaze your body, and this manifests as depression (5)
The truth of the matter is you can’t divorce your brain from your body. (6). If you’re living and eating in a way that’s causing inflammation, it’s time to cool that inflammation off. And the first step towards cooling off the inflammation is…..
Step 1. Eat to Lower Inflammation
The most important steps towards reducing inflammation are:
- Eat less inflammatory foods
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
- Eat more omega-3 fats and less omega-6 fats
Inflammatory Foods are sugar, junk food, and basically anything made by a man in a lab coat. Anything that has over 9 grams of sugar, artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or any ingredients you can’t pronounce. Some of the most common inflammatory foods are
❌ boxed cereals
❌ breakfast bars
❌ sugary beverages of any kind, including store bought fruit juice
❌ bread, fast food, fake cheese, processed food-stuff.
❌ Alcohol (an occasional glass of wine is fine, drinking until buzzed every night is less than ideal)
❌ Seed oils, like peanut oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil
Anti-inflammatory foods are anything from nature.
✅ fruits, especially berries
✅ any vegetables
✅ any herbs
✅ wild caught fish
✅ grass-fed proteins
✅ raw dairy if you tolerate dairy
✅ and even whole grains like wild rice if you tolerate grains well.
✅ Avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil
Omega-3s are the essential fats from fresh, fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines. A huge source of inflammation is too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3 fats. Our ancestors used to get a perfect balance of a 1:1 ratio omega-6 to omega-3 fats. Now, the average American averages a ratio of 16:1! As Dr. Steven Ilardi points out in The Depression Cure, the rise in depression mirrors the rise in industrial seed oils.
To reduce inflammation in your body you can either eat less omega-6s or eat more omega-3s. It’s a good idea to take an aggressive approach when you’re feeling depressed, and focus on getting a high dose of omega-3s.
Here are the Omega-3 rich meal ideas we covered in today’s video:
Salmon & Sweet Potatoes
Sardines on Brown Rice Bread
Anchovy Mustard Dressing
Step 2 – Eat for Gut Health
Western psychiatry has ignored the correlation between gut health and depression. But modern research has demonstrated a clear and direct link between the gut and the brain (7) (8) . The technical term for the link between the gut and the brain is the gut-brain axis. In short, science has proven that the health of the brain is influenced by the health of the gut, and visa versa. Depressed people typically have higher rates of gut issues (9), and so healing those gut issues can go a long way in eliminating symptoms of depression.
Some very simple steps to healing gut health are:
- Taking a good probiotic (I recommend Prescript Assist soil based probiotic)
- Eat fermented foods like kombucha and sauerkraut
- Eat plenty of fiber rich foods
- Eliminate gut irritants like gluten, sugar, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners
- Follow Chris Kresser’s guide on gut health. Chris Kresser is a pioneer in healing, and is well versed on gut issues
Step 3 – Find Your Carbohydrate Sweet Spot, and focus on good carbs
If you eat too many carbs, that puts you at risk for developing diabetes, weight gain, and inflammation. If you don’t eat enough carbs, your thyroid can slow down and your energy will suffer. So how many carbs should you eat? There isn’t one solid answer for that.
The amount of carbohydrates each person needs is as unique as her fingerprint. The only way to know is to do some self experimentation. Notice how you look and feel after ten days of eating lower carbs (under 60 grams per day). Then bump it up to 100 grams per day. Even throw in a really high carb day or two and see how you feel over the next few days.
Learn what works best for your body, and stick with that. There isn’t a fitness guru in the world that knows your body better than you, and finding out how your biology functions best is the ultimate tool for longevity, health, and getting rid of depression-inducing inflammation.
If Motivation is Your Issue
If depression is robbing you of motivation, a structured system like my new program might be just what you need. I put together a life-transforming program called The 30 Day Lean Reset to give you a deep dive into changing your body and mind, and getting healthier than you ever imagined. In this course, you get daily guidance, videos, tools, and powerful exercises that you can use forever. You also get daily homework to make the things you learn a part of your life, and start feeling like a different person immediately. It’s a course for resetting your body, mind, and beyond, so everyone can benefit from it.
You awaken to your higher self today by hopping into Day 1 of the course for free. Even just doing Day 1 of the 30 Days will give you the ultimate spring board for letting light into your life. And by the way, the course is half off right now. You can join the course here.
Whether you choose my course, or just choose to structure your own day, it’s important to set up some type of system to help you succeed. It boils down to making the effort to put your happiness first. Make it a priority by treating your body and mind the way you’d treat your most precious loved one.
Thank you for hanging out with me today! Wishing you all the best, and hoping you enjoy the sardine sandwich from today’s video 😉