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Given the (sometimes very severe) side effects of many antidepressants, people often want to know how to treat depression with diet. While diet and a lifestyle of overall health certainly play a role in mood, it is unfortunately only rarely possible to effectively treat true depression with diet alone. That said, the following are some steps you can take to improve you diet and potentially lessen some of depression's worst symptoms.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Make sure you're getting enough of all the vital nutrients your body needs to heal and repair itself. Carbs, protein, fat (yes, even fat), vitamins, and minerals are all necessary players in our bodies' processes, and a deficiency in any of them can worsen depression symptoms.
Get Enough Antioxidants
Because of the brain's susceptibility to free-radical damage, it's important to get enough antioxidants in your diet, especially vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene.
Cutting back on carbs can have a harmful effect on serotonin levels, so don't cut out carbs completely (see above). Just make sure the carbs you eat are the best kind. Avoid sugary foods and go with whole grains, fruits, and veggies.
Eat More Meat
Or protein, to be specific. Not only is protein filling and vital for muscle repair, it contains amino acids that can boost alertness and help fight off feelings of lethargy associated with depression.
Try a Mediterranean Diet
As a way to combine many of the above principles, try eating a mediterranean-style diet of fruits, nuts, cereals, and fish. A recent Spanish study showed that such a diet decrease the incidence of depression among a sample of nearly 10,000 participants.
Get Plenty of Vitamin D
Seasonal affective disorder, also called winter depression has long been linked to lack of adequate sunlight during the winter months. Research suggests this has to do with subsequent declines in the level of vitamin D. In lieu of sunlight, a vitamin D supplement can help offset this deficiency.
Find Selenium-Rich Foods
Selenium has been shown to improve mood, but in high doses becomes toxic. Therefore, it's best to get most of your selenium in food form, in things like legumes, lean meat, low-fat dairy products, some seafood, and whole grains.
Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eat more fish. It's the best source of omega-3's, which have a host of benefits, including not only improved mood and cognitive function, but also lower blood pressure and decreased risk of heart attack.
Don't Smoke, and Only Drink in Moderation
Tobacco and alcohol can mess with your body chemistry and make it harder to sleep, stay awake, or stay motivated. They interfere with antidepressant medications, and have negative health effects in their own right. Also, check your caffeine intake.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The link between obesity and depression goes both ways. Obese people are more likely to become depressed, and depressed people are more likely to become obese. Make sure your diet allows you to remain active and doesn't contribute to obesity.
In addition to these suggestions of how to treat depression with diet, a doctor or dietician should be able to offer suggestions to change your lifestyle to minimize or prevent the most disruption of depression's effects.
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