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Food: A Snowplow For Seasonal Depression and Mood Disorders

January 5, 2010

Perhaps it is because I was raised in the city with the highest annual snowfall in the United States(Syracuse NY http://www.123syracuse.com/snowycities.html) but I find myself struggling to stay positive by around mid November. It was especially strong in my mid teens to early twenties. I have read countless studies that link weather with mood, including much on the affliction SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. A quick Google search will further enlighten the curious. I will not focus on the symptoms here, as I am looking for solutions.

This information has left me wondering about the affects of diet on mood and whether a balanced healthy diet rich in certain elements can be beneficial for people suffering from mild to severe depression and other mood disorders. And if so, which foods should I be consuming in the winter months. I found some interesting things in my research and will do my best to summarize them here.

I noticed that many of the articles I read included lists such as top 5 food items to fight depression. There were many repeats and I will summarize the knowledge first then conclude with some helpful recipes.

AVOIDING A LOW CARB DIET

Susan Moores of the American Diabetes Association recommends that people suffering from depression should avoid a low-carb diet. This is because carbohydrates aid in the production of Serotonins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin) and low-carb diets can increase instances of mood swings.

ROCKSTAR COMPONENTS: OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS

It seems like the term Omega 3 is everywhere these days. As a seafood industry person, I have read a lot about the role of Omega 3 fatty acids from seafood sources contributing to a healthy diet. I found a great summary of research studies involving comparative analysis of consumption of seafood versus instances of various types of depression and neurological disorders. (http://www.mcmanweb.com/omega3.html) More research is being done on the benefits of this element. Evidence is compelling that regular consumption of foods rich in Omegas can correlate into a healthier state of mind. Salmon, Mackerel, Black Cod, Oysters and many other types of seafood carry high levels of Omegas as well as other healthful nutrients. Some nuts such as English Walnuts and soybeans, flaxseed/linseed and canola also contain these beneficial acids.

VITAMINS: AND NOT THE BARNEY RUBBLE VARIETY

Vitamins E is found to aid in production of Serotonins as well as several other important aspects of regulation in the body. Blood Sugar regulation, Antioxidant activity, Immune Function and other metabolic functions are all attributed to this necessary element. (http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamine.asp) Good sources of Vitamin E include Canola and other nut oils, green leafy vegetables, Kiwis and Mangoes.

Vitamin B6 is essential to systems such as Hemoglobin production, i.e. getting oxygen to your cells, protein metabolism, nervous and immune system function. It also is crucial in regulating blood sugar levels, a key aspect of controlling mood disorders. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods including proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish as well as in leafy vegetables, nuts and cereals, and tomatoes and avocados. http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminb6.asp

Vitamin B12 is a key element in metabolism and central nervous system health. This particular vitamin comes primarily from proteins and meat sources. People with a vegetarian diet that is low in B12 should consider a supplemental form of B12 to ensure proper body function. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002403.htm

Other B vitamins such as Niacin(B3) and Thiamin(B1) are important as well and have been linked to energy production. A diet containing proper amounts of all of these B vitamins can help regulate moods and protect against other nervous system disorders such as anxiety and sleeplessness. http://searchwarp.com/swa225668.htm

10 OUT OF 20 IS BAD

Even that Holiday Turkey dinner can be beneficial, with the ingredient Tryptophan. This essential Amino Acid has been found to moderate moods and give a calming effect to the body and mind. It is part of the “10 essential Amino Acids”. Our bodies require 20 different Amino Acids but only produce 10. The other 10 we must get from our food. http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biochemistry/problem_sets/aa/aa.html

DO NOT THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND

Bear in mind that with all these things, there is a proper amount to consume. More or less than recommended can have detrimental effects and should be carefully measured. Generally, a balanced diet will provide all of the essentials while enjoying a wide variety of delicious meals. Also, if you suffer from acute or regular depression, you should consult your doctor before deciding on a course of treatment. Depression is a potentially serious disorder that is suffered by millions of Americans. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml Professional Treatment as well as a balanced diet can help those that suffer from these disorders.

A HAPPY ENDING

So rejoice foodies! It seems that a proper healthy and delicious diet of whole ingredients can be a key weapon in the fight against various forms of depression, anxiety and mood disorders as well as general health and wellness.

This means that with some research and a list of good ingredients, we can help ward off many of the health issues that we face in our lifetime.

Finally, although it is not food realted, you can do what I did and move to a warmer climate…

Here are some recipes that are both tasty and will keep you smiling:

Tasty toasted pumpkin seeds http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/toasted_pumpkin_seeds/

Sablefish http://gourmetfood.suite101.com/article.cfm/misomarinated_sablefish_recipe/

Salmon http://www.kitchenmonki.com/recipe/Steamed_Salmon_Asparagus_in_Parchment

Spinach Salad http://southernfood.about.com/od/spinachsaladrecipes/r/bl60522d.htm

Peanuts http://www.peanut-institute.org/Asian_Lettuce_Wraps.html

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