A healthy diet has been proven to be one of the alternative methods in helping to treat depression and fatigue. Blacklight spoke to a nutritional therapist about what to eat when suffering from depression and fatigue.
Compiled by: Blacklight writer
Depression is still quite a silent and complicated illness. Many suffer in silence while finding it hard to seek professional treatment. Though in some cases it may be vital that one seeks professional help for the condition – which usually includes therapy and medication- a balanced diet can also help to treat the illness.
Researchers at the Otago Department of Human Nutrition, in New Zealand, found that the foods we eat do affect our moods and energy levels. They cited that the participants who consumed a lot of fruits and vegetables felt calmer, happier and more energised.
“People suffering from depression often show high levels of homocysteine -This is a non-protein amino acid that can prevent people from overcoming their depression,” said the researchers.
“Consuming foods rich in folate (a vitamin of the B complex found especially in leafy green vegetables) and high in antioxidants (a substance such as vitamin C or E that removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents) may help lower homocysteine levels increasing the ability to deal with depression.”
We spoke to nutritional therapist Hannah Kaye, and she agrees that a controlled diet can help treat depression and fatigue.
“A wide range of vegetables and fruit are essential, as they provide a bunch of micronutrients and phytochemicals that help make us happy.
Additionally, animal protein is absolutely essential – eggs, chicken, lamb, beef, etc. – we need the amino acids to build our neurotransmitters and the vitamin B12 for neurologic support,” she shares.
“The researchers speak of folate in terms of homocysteine, but low B12 levels also lead to increased homocysteine.
Good fats, in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, olives and coconut, work to regulate inflammation. High levels of inflammation are associated with depression. Finally, gluten-free whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat are high in B vitamins which are essential for a balanced mood. So one must have a balanced diet.”
The nutrients you need when suffering from depression and fatigue
“This is very person specific but some of the nutrients to investigate are:
Vitamin D (low levels are associated with both anxiety and depression)
Iron (however, high iron is extremely inflammatory so it is not advisable to take an iron supplement unless you know you need one)
Vitamin B12 (only if levels are low) and a B complex in general
Anti-inflammatory fats – Omega 3 EPA/DHA from fish oil
Magnesium and Zinc – both are essential for neurotransmitter conversion
A phytonutrient blend or 4-6 cups of fruit and veg per day,” adds Kaye.
Is juicing okay?
“Juicing should never be used instead of a balanced diet. I always tell my clients to eat vegetables first and juice them later. Generally, when we juice we lose the fibre and fibre is an essential part of good health – especially gut health and compromised gut function is also associated with depression.
In saying that, if you use juicing as an addition to a balanced diet, it can be very powerful. The key is to use majority green veg and then to sweeten up with a small amount of sweet veg (like carrots) or something like ½ apple. Sweet juices or pure fruit juices are not good for blood sugar and blood sugar fluctuations are also associated with low mood,” explains kaye.
What you need to be conscious of if you prefer juicing
“It’s all about the juicer. You can use something like a Nutribullet – that will keep the fibre and blend to smoothie consistency. If you want to lose the fibre and have a pure juice, it’s best to opt for a cold pressed one. Cold press juicers retain living enzymes,” she advises.
Hannah runs Inspire Health, an Integrative Wellbeing consultancy. She has an Honours degree in Nutrition as well as a degree in Journalism. She specialises in gastrointestinal and neurological health and has a special interest in Nutritional Psychiatry. Dietary manipulation or restriction, as well as therapeutic supplementation, are critical elements of her intervention programs.
You can contact Hannah on Hannahkaye.co.za
To seek help for depression contact Sadag (The South African Group and Anxiety) on: 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline: 0800 12 13 14
SMS 31393 (and they will call you back)