Many people turn to anti-depressants to relieve their emotional suffering. While medication can be life-saving under certain circumstances, a nutritional approach to depression has few, if any, of the side effects of medications. In many instances, people can start to feel better emotionally and physically just by virtue of eating nourishing foods.
Balancing sugar at its best is done through tapering off from refined sugar over the course of a two-week period. Many people who eliminate refined sugar report having more energy and alertness along with an overall sense of well-being. No more sugar blues.
When eating carbohydrates, make sure that they are slow-releasing so that the sugar contained in them does not flood the bloodstream. Fruits with skins contain fiber that slow down the release of sugar into the blood. Fruit juices flood our bloodstream with sugar because they lack fiber.
Eating complex carbohydrates also provides fiber to slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Oatmeal, whole grain bread, and whole-grain cereals, and non-starchy vegetables, preferably organic, are good sources of fiber.
Blood sugar also is stabilized by having meals and snacks with a healthy balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut, and walnut oil are healthy choices over vegetable oils, such as canola, safflower, and corn oils. And, of course, avoid trans-fats in processed foods.
Proteins from high quality protein powders and eggs high in omega-3 fatty acids are healthy food choices. Studies report that the cholesterol in eggs does not increase cholesterol in the body to a significant degree. Rather diets high in refined sugar have been associated with elevated cholesterol. Avoid processed foods as much as possible as they are depleted of many vital nutrients.
The consumption of high quality omega-3 fatty acids also can be helpful in treating depression as they increase serotonin levels, giving us a greater sense of well-being. Consuming fish high in omega 3′s, such as wild salmon, cod, mackerel, and sardines, or cod liver oil can help to alleviate depression.
Along with balancing sugar and consuming omega-3 fatty acids, make sure to consume foods high in B vitamins. They play a role in reducing stress and increasing brain chemicals responsible for boosting mood.
Foods high in B vitamins include green leafy vegetables, bananas, whole grains, milk, poultry, organ meats, fish, nuts, and seeds. Along with these foods, consider a high quality Vitamin B supplement.
Our body also produces different amino acids that play a role in managing our emotions.
GABA, e.g. is calming and when our levels are low, we often feel stressed and anxious, and crave carbohydrates. Sometimes panic attacks can occur with low GABA levels. GABA can be taken in supplement form, but can lower blood pressure. It should be avoided by people whose pressure is on the low side. Lower levels of GABA found in combination anti-stress formulas may be better tolerated.
Serotonin gives us a sense of well-being, making us feel peaceful and at ease. With low levels, we can feel depressed, anxious, tend to worry, crave sweets, think obsessively, and be perfectionistic. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, so consuming foods high in tryptophan can help to boost mood. Good choices are turkey, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, beans, tofu, and oats. The only way that tryptophan can reach the brain, however, is by eating carbohydrates along with the tryptophan-rich food. When insulin is produced after eating carbohydrates, one of its roles is to deliver tryptophan to the brain. Otherwise it has no way of getting there.
Beta-endorphin is another amino acid that also works to make us feel good. With too little in the body, our tolerance for pain decreases, we can feel emotionally reactive, depressed, and experience a sense of isolation. Our self-esteem can plummet and nutritionally, cravings for sugar increase. DPA (D-phenylalanine), an amino acid supplement, has been found to be effective in increasing beta-endorphin levels. Exercise mediation, and yoga also will increase beta-endorphin levels.
Low levels of the amino acid, tyrosine, can lead to feeling unmotivated, easily bored, lacking energy and focus, and having trouble sleeping. Foods high in tyrosine include dairy, legumes, avocados, tofu, almonds, bananas, pumpkin, and sesame seeds. Tyrosine also can be taken in supplemental form.