Next week I am attending a day of girl’s camp. I am assigned to teach a class on mental and emotional wellness. When I worked with the senior population I noticed large amounts of people with anxiety and depression. It is not a lot different in our young people. What I quickly found is the depression-anxiety-nutrition-connection. In other words our mental health is directly connected to the food we eat or do not eat. That should not surprise me since whatever we put into our body effects it for good or bad.
Teen nutrition is extremely important. We are what we eat. Our bodies are what we eat and our brains are what we eat. There are many scientific studies showing there is a direct link between mental health and our diet. The reason this is so important in our children and teens is because they are still developing and if the brain is not being given the necessary nutrients to develop it can be critical at this stage of life. This depression anxiety nutrition connection is a crucial step in healing.
Published in the journal BMC Medicine in January 2017, the study involved 67 men and women with moderate to severe depression. All participants reported eating a relatively unhealthy diet before joining the study. They were divided into two groups for the three-month intervention. One group was put on a modified Mediterranean diet: They ate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and less sugar, fried food, and processed foods. The other group continued eating their usual unhealthy diets, but attended social support groups, which have been proven to help with depression.
After three months, researchers measured the participants’ depressive symptoms. Here’s what they concluded: A third of those in the dietary support group met the criteria for remission of major depression, compared to only 8 percent of those in the social support group.
According to Felice Jacka of Deakin University in Australia, who led the study, “These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change. Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms.”
The BMC (BioMedical Central) publishes research in all areas of clinical practice, medicin, medical and health advances.
The one thing Jim and I disagree on this study is they were fed low-fat dairy. Low fat dairy contains more sugar and is not good for you. This is part of the low-fat myth that has existed for decades. However, full fat dairy should be eaten in small amounts realizing that raw milk is more a food than a beverage. We believe they would have had a higher percentage of positive results because the brain requires fat, not low fat.
Here are some ideas of how to change our diet, our child’s diet and our grandchild’s diet. Our brain, our mental and emotional component of our body needs dopamine and serotonin to function at top performance. This is part of the depression-anxiety-nutrition-connection
The building blocks of protein are amino acids. Two of them are Tyrosine and Tryptophan.
These are both building blocks of dopamine and serotonin.
So where can we get them?
- Organic or grass-fed meat, particularly turkey
- Pasture raised chicken
- Organic and free-range eggs
- Organic cheese
- Bean and Legumes
Vitamin D also effects our levels of serotonin which effects our mood.
Vitamin D can be found in
- Organic, free-range eggs
- Cod Liver Oil
At the Mayo clinic they have found low levels of vitamin B12 and other B vitamins are associated with depression.
B Vitamin foods includes
- Dark Leafy greens (turnip green, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collards, spinach)
- Bell peppers
- Cruciferous Vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)
- Wild-caught fish
- Dairy products
- Organic, free-range eggs
Low folic acid is associated with depress.
These foods contain folic acid.
- Green Vegetables
- Citrus fruit
- Whole-wheat bread
Magnesium is often referred to as the stress antidote.
Some doctors and scientist believe depression is so high because magnesium is so low in our diets. Researchers Karen and George Eby published several studies showing how magnesium treatment improved symptoms of depression in as few as seven days.
These foods have magnesium in them:
- Leafy Greens
- Also a long bath in Epson salt will help magnesium get into the body.
Those are a few of the foods that should be eaten to increase the dopamine and serotonin levels in our body. What I find interesting is that we teach over and over the need to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you do, you will be eating the different nutrients necessary for good mental health.
But there is something that is eaten by children, teens, adults and seniors that can undo all the good food we eat. Can you guess it the next depression-anxiety-nutrition-connection?
Yes Sugar is an addictive substance. It is the first addictive substance that we put in our children with their morning bowl of cereal.
Scientists are proving in study after study that sugar is one of the biggest threats to human health, and that as they have found, that also includes mental health. Sugar has been linked to depression, addictive behavior, anxiety, memory loss, and cognitive ability.
6.3 million teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder. That is 25% percent of that age group. 1 out of every 4. Wow!
Over three million teens between 12 and 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
A new field of study, called nutritional neuroscience, is helping to understand the nutritional factors that influence thinking, behavior and emotions.
In the 1940 the average American consumed 2 pounds of sugar a year. Now the consumption is over 150 pounds per person per year.
Look at a typical breakfast.
16 ounce glass of orange juice 13 teaspoons of sugar
2 cups of cereal 10 teaspoons of sugar
two slices of whole wheat toast 10 teaspoons of sugar
That is 33 teaspoons for breakfast. Get the point.
A much better breakfast is:
sliced tomatoes or baby carrots
Guess what that is…A good protein, A good fat, A good carb, and a non-starchy vegetable.
Low levels of serotonin are linked to insomnia and sleep disorders and depressed, anxiety and suicide.
95% of serotonin is made in the gut. We just may be able to eat ourselves happy.
Last but not least, Jim would never forgive me if I did not talk about the importance of exercise in countering depression. Even though it is not part of the depression-anxiety-nutrition-connection we need to get those endorphins firing. Take a hike, a walk, a swim, a run but get moving.