When I first started my practice, I was surprised by the number of patients who complained of depression, anxiety, and/or mood swings. Over time, I’ve realized that this a reliable indicator that there’s imbalance in the body. As Dr. James Gordon says in his book Unstuck, “Depression is not a disease, the end point to a pathological process. It is a sign that our lives are out of balance, that we’re stuck. It’s a wake up call and the start of a journey that can help us become whole and happy, a journey that can change and transform our lives.”
An important step in the journey to restore balance in the body is to examine how the foods we eat can affect our moods. Are there foods that trigger mood swings or bouts of depression? Do certain foods seem to improve your mood? Are you nourishing yourself in a way that feels restorative and nurturing? Keep a food journal and see if you discover any trends. Here are a few tips from my most recent cooking class ” Foods to Beat the Blues:”
- Take the time to eat a balanced breakfast – it’s best to break the fast within one hour of rising and try to have a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats (e.g. egg scramble with veggies and a piece of whole grain toast).
- Eat every 3-4 hours – keep blood sugar stable and ward off hypoglycemia by eating a small meal or healthy snack regularly throughout the day. Good snacks include nuts, seeds, yogurt, hummus with veggies and apples with almond butter.
- Limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol – these substances can contribute to mood swings, anxiety and sleep disturbances (which can also cause symptoms similar to depression). Read the ingredient list on processed foods and avoid refined sugar.
- Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens – these foods are high in B vitamins, which are energy-promoting nutrients and co-factors in various neurological functions. So don’t forget to eat your greens! Try spinach, chard, kale and collard greens.
- Don’t forget the healthy fats – some research suggests that omega-3s can help combat depression, and we know that they cool down inflammation in the body. Go for the oily fish, like salmon, halibut and mackerel. Sardines make a great snack!