Food and Mood

The short, dreary days of winter are quickly approaching. As this happens, anti- depressant medication prescriptions will skyrocket. In 2005, 118 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants, making them the number one prescribed medication that year. Since then, the numbers have only increased.

There must be a reason for this…what on earth is making everyone so sad? A study done in the United Kingdom last year found that people were eating 34 percent less veggies and 2/3 less fish than only 50 years ago. It also found that modern agricultural practices have altered the type, amount and balance of fats in livestock, and have genetically modified most produce. Scary.

Food was placed on our planet to keep us healthy and happy. Food was intended to be our “medicine.” If you’re tired of covering up your depressive symptoms with medications, read on to find six ways to replenish your nutritional stores and let your body heal itself.

1. Eat breakfast. To me, this is the most important thing you can do to stave off the sadness. You will also find that you have energy throughout the entire day when eating a good breakfast. The key: PROTEIN. Just eating cereal or toast isn’t going to cut it. Get a good quality whey protein to make a shake, or put a scoop of it on your oatmeal. Otherwise, eggs are a great protein option as well.

2. Complex carbohydrates. Make sure you are getting at least five servings of veggies (more is better). This naturally increases your serotonin production. Serotonin is a hormone that helps keep you happy.

3. Avoid caffeine. I know, I know, this is a tough one for most Americans. The problem with caffeine is after the initial kick in energy, your system has to work very hard to filter out the oils and chemicals. This is very taxing to your adrenal glands, causing them to produce excess cortisol. Cortisol then accumulates in fat cells (especially around the mid-section). After all that work, your body is at a lower energy level than it was first thing in the morning; and your mood is diminished as well. Of course, you then feel compelled to drink more caffeine, and the cycle starts all over again. Try some roasted chicory or a mild green tea to start weaning yourself off the hard stuff.

4. Proper nutrients. Vitamin D has especially been linked to feeling depressed. Since our levels are very low here in the Northwoods (we only get two months out of the year of vitamin D from the sun), we may need to supplement.

B vitamins, calcium and magnesium are also important in producing dopamine to make you more alert. Find these first in dark leafy greens; otherwise a quality whole food supplement may be needed. It is very important to have the whole food supplement rather than the synthetic chemical supplements most companies make in a lab.

Omega 3s are also essential. Since more than 60 percent of the brain is made up of fats, mainly DHA (an omega 3 fatty acid), it is imperative that we get enough in order for our brains to function properly. If you can’t eat salmon, mackerel, sardines or tuna at least three times per week, you will need to supplement. Flax supplements will not work in this case; you have to have the DHA. Once again, be careful. Fish oils are the number one most contaminated supplement on the market today.

5. Exercise. Big surprise, right? Get movin’! That instant endorphin release will change your mood in a hurry.

6. Cut the sugar. When the craving hits, go for a piece of fruit, or try some air-popped organic popcorn for some energy. If you dive into a candy bar, not only will you crash an hour later, but you won’t sleep well that night. Chances are, the guilt alone will be enough to make you depressed!

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Continue to make good lifestyle changes and choices, and soon it will become habit. Now put on a smile and embrace the day!

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