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Eating the Blues Away

Eating the Blues Away

We know food fuels our bodies, but it is important to realize that what we eat can also affect our mood. Sure, when we’re down, a lot of us reach for chocolate or comfort food like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes. But would different food choices be more effective at lifting our spirits?

Some comfort foods give us a boost partly because they’re what the nurturers from our past might have fed us, but also because they help produce serotonin and other mood-enhancing brain chemicals. Carbohydrates, for example, increase levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which can be converted to serotonin and boost our feeling of well-being. For some people, carbs work wonders for their psyche; unfortunately, a high-carbohydrate meal leaves others feeling tapped out.

Many nutritionists agree that foods high in B6 and other B vitamins, such as spinach and other leafy green vegetables, plus whole grains, fish and poultry, are crucial to producing the chemicals that enhance our mood. However, alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar, nicotine, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can all deplete levels of the B-complex vitamins, so even those eating a diet high in B6 might consider taking a vitamin supplement as well. In addition to the B vitamins, eating fish or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, cutting back on foods laden with chemicals and preservatives and staying hydrated could help ward off the blues, according to Jeannie Crabtree, who wrote the article “Depression Help the Natural Way” for Health-Doc.com.

The real problems start when you try to treat that dragged-down feeling with caffeine and sugar, thinking they’ll perk you up. They will, briefly, but then comes the crash, and you’re worse off than before. According to Selene Yeager, author of “Prevention’s New Foods for Healing,” a study of 20 people with serious depression showed that cutting all sugar and caffeine from their diets significantly improved their depression levels.

Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., who writes a blog titled “The Food Doctor”, suggests that people who are mildly depressed completely cut out refined sugar: “No sweetened cereals, no breads or bean salads with sugar in them, no muffins, no cookies, no jams, no desserts. This means careful label reading, as well as very conscious eating.” Colbin also suggests avoiding canned or frozen foods and tracking your protein intake because protein can combat sugar cravings.

If you’re lucky, beating the blues might be as simple as drinking more water and taking a B vitamin. If not, a sober look at your diet and some serious changes may be in order. If your happiness is at stake, it’s surely worth a try.

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health

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Heather L. Jones

Heather L. Jones worked at daily newspapers in the Bay Area for 15 years. She now lives in Davis, where she writes, edits, and teaches kids about organic gardening.

9 comments

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8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Interesting but the idea of having people with depression avoid any food with sugar at all times seems pointless. Many treats are just that... in moderation without totally eliminating these from the diet.

Not every one eats a dessert every evening or drinks coffee every day of the week. An occasional treat is fine and there is nothing more demoralizing that being told that you may never ever have something like a butter tart or an occasional cup of coffee again if you are suffering from depression.

Eating a balanced diet helps, cooking food at home instead of eating out often so one can monitor what is in your food while avoiding the totally refined stuff out there also helps.

Yes, some are so depressed that they are unable to cook and do other things but for the most
part most people with depression manage and if one has a reasonably balanced diet one should not be told that certain foods must always be off limits. Especially dark chocolate, perish the thought!

1:48AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Thanks for sharing!

1:06PM PDT on May 4, 2012

ty

9:37AM PST on Jan 13, 2012

Interesting.
Thank you

5:43AM PDT on Apr 26, 2011

Thanks for the article.

7:28PM PDT on Apr 25, 2011

interesting.

8:54PM PST on Dec 14, 2010

thanks

8:28PM PST on Feb 5, 2010

Let your food be your medicine!

10:54AM PDT on May 21, 2008

The no sugar component is the best one I have found to date, but by far the most reliable mood elevator is still exercise. If it's tough enough...who has time to let the gloom overtake the day. And like every other good habit, it becomes a pleasure instead of a job.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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