Depression can have different and multiple causes. Poor nutrition combined with psychological stress is the cause in most cases. Addressing the psychological stress with nutrition works to some extent, especially if the stress comes from anxiety in the subconscious. To fully address anxiety in the subconscious we provide help in the form of trip therapy. Nutrition does address the basics which allows depression to be better controlled and in some cases the depression can be completely relieved. If the nutrition is correct the neurotransmitters in the brain will be restored to balance and that provides a basis for more positive thoughts.
Most diets have a focus on the body. It is mainly about losing weight as quickly as possible, and whether that is done in a healthy or unhealthy way is often secondary to the optical result or what the scale says.
The nutrition advice below is written to make you feel more comfortable in your own skin. The effect is mainly on the brain, but the body also benefits. Neither can you have one without the other, because after all, the brain is also an organ of the body. This nutritional advice is more of a guideline than a chewed-out diet. We give you the ingredients that you have to start combining yourself, but the nice thing is that you will start noticing a difference within just a few days.
When you breathe, the body is filled with oxygen, which the mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) use to make fuel for the body. They leave behind free radicals, the part of the oxygen they can't use. This oxygen is very reactive and wants to connect with whatever and that then oxidizes (like iron rusts).
A few free radicals are good; they destroy damaged cells so you can replace them. But excess free radicals begin to attack strong cells, cause inflammation and causes premature aging. Chronic stress, toxins from smog and low-quality indoor air, mold, sugar, pesticides and many other attributes of modern life produce free radicals at high levels so that the inflammation in the body reduces the release of serotonin and BDNF and what causes dejection or even depression.
More info on BDNF and serotonin
Polyphenols against free radicals
All vegetables contain polyphenols that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage. Low inflammation increases blood flow to your brain, giving it the oxygen to produce more energy. Increased blood flow gives you stable energy and focus. Polyphenols also help you make more BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that causes neurogenesis. Neurogenesis causes you to build new brain cells.
Dark green vegetables are a good source of polyphenols. For an extra anti-inflammatory boost, add dark red, purple and blue plants. They have the often the strongest polyphenols in the largest amounts. Here are some of the most powerful polyphenol sources:
Coffee contains special polyphenols that protect cells with high fat content, and the brain is made up of some of the fattest cells in your body. Coffee is strongly neuroprotective. Coffee should be drunk in moderation and no later than 1 p.m. in connection with sleep. More than two cups of coffee a day will actually counteract health, so drink in moderation.
Green tea contains theanine and catechins, both of which prevent cognitive decline. Theanine also improves attention and mood when combined with caffeine, so take green tea with caffeine. You won't find green polyphenols in coffee. Drink a cup of each for extra cognitive performance in the morning.
Blueberries get their deep blue color from anthocyanins, powerful polyphenols that increase blood flow and dramatically increase lifespan in animals. Blueberry polyphenols also increase BDNF directly, allowing you to create new brain pathways. Blueberries are fairly low in sugar, but they still have a few grams, so stick to a two handful a day.
Pomegranates contain ellagitannins, special polyphenols that go directly into your mitochondria and protect them from damage. In addition, your gut bacteria break down pomegranate into something called urolithins, which can protect the brain from cognitive decline. Stick to a few handfuls of pomegranate seeds a day. Avoid ready-made juices with pomegranate, which contain more sugar and much less polyphenols.
Red cabbage contains anthocyanidins that are particularly powerful in fighting inflammation. They give red cabbage its color; white or green cabbage does not have the same powerful effect.
ORAC list. The ORAC list includes foods high in antioxidants. Antioxidants absorb free oxygen and thus also prevent inflammation.
Good fats. Most polyphenols are fat-soluble, so make sure you get them with a good dose of good fats, which we write more about below.
Saturated fat to keep your brain cells isolated
The brain contains about 60% fat, 25% of which is cholesterol. If you have ever followed a low-fat diet and always felt tired or unfocused, now you know why: you are starving the brain of one of its most important components.
Brain cells send signals to each other along long nerve cell connections. Many of the nerve cell connections are covered with myelin sheaths, greasy coatings that insulate your brain cells so that electrical signals travel faster through your brain. It is similar to the way electricity travels through an insulated wire.
When myelin begins to break down, electrical communication in the brain slows down. That is when one forgets keys and loses the train of thought. Myelin is made almost entirely from cholesterol. Cholesterol is also the basis for all sex hormones: testosterone, estrogen, cortisol (which is needed in healthy amounts), and so on. Give the body enough cholesterol to work with and it balances the hormones.
Not too many carbohydrates should be eaten in addition to saturated fat. Carbohydrates, especially the fast sugars, cause oxidative inflammation that ultimately causes cardiovascular disease (oxidized LDL and saturated fat). In other words, it is inflammation from excess sugars that weakens the heart, not just saturated fat. A low-carbohydrate (mainly low-sugar), anti-inflammatory diet is ideal for most people.
Best sources of saturated fat and cholesterol
Grass-fed butter. Note its sunny yellow color and creamy consistency. White or waxy butter is a sign that the cow that produced it ate a poor diet, which also means the butter is not of good quality.
Eggs. Free-range, grass-fed and omega 3 eggs are the best choice. Avoid eggs from grain-fed chickens.
Dark chocolate. Beware of added sugar. The darker, the better. Best is as unprocessed as possible such as cacao nibs. Chocolate is also full of polyphenols.
Grass-fed beef and lamb. Go for the fattest mince available. It is usually the cheapest because most people think fat is bad, but with grass-fed beef and lamb it is not.
Omega-3s against inflammation and brain structure
There are two types of omega-3s that are very good for the brain. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) competes with omega-6 fats, reducing inflammation throughout the body and especially your brain. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the main structural component of your brain and central nervous system. In fact, there is strong evidence that high-DHA diets played a major role in the evolution of the modern human brain.
DHA is one of the most important factors in sharp memory and brain cell integrity It is also essential for mood: a worldwide study of fish consumption, DHA levels and depression showed that eating more DHA-rich fish correlated strongly with greater happiness. It's not a proven cause-and-effect relationship, because the correlation could also be the other way around, namely that happy people eat more fish.
The third type of omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), this omega-3 is found in plants. The body cannot use ALA, so it converts it to DHA and EPA, but the conversion is inefficient . You only convert about 6% of ALA to DHA / EPA. All those superfood companies that claim their plant-based products are high in omega-3s are using misleading marketing; with the exception of a few types of algae, plants only contain ALA, which doesn't actually do you much good. Get your omega-3s from animal fats (or algae, if you are vegetarian/vegan).
Here are top sources of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA):
Wild-caught, low mercury fish. Alaska salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel and trout are all good sources. Make sure they are wild-caught and if you get them canned, check that the cans are BPA-free.
Fish / krill oil. Krill oil tends to be a little better, but it is also more expensive.
Grass-fed organ meats are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Brains are by far the best source. Avoid cow brains because of past history with mad cow disease, but lamb brain is excellent if you can find it. Heart, liver and kidneys are also high in DHA and EPA. Make sure your organ meats are grass fed.
What else can you eat?
We have previously written about how diet and lifestyle can help you create more BDNF and thus fight depression. We recommend that you read the piece on nutrition. The nutritional advice contained therein is great to combine with the information in this article. This information together is a very good basis for a healthy body and mind.
Read more about nutrition, BDNF and depression here
Supplements can be a welcome addition to your diet. We have written about this before.
Read here which supplements work against depressive symptoms
Other things to consider
Incorporating the above foods into your diet is a solid foundation for a fast, resilient brain which is more resistant to depression. This article covers the tip of the iceberg: you can stimulate your brain even more by eating even fewer carbohydrates and more healthy fat and occasional fasting. Fasting can have a cleansing effect. Even part-time fasting works. Eating only between 12:00 and 6:00 p.m. for several weeks can already give greater improvement.