1. Fuel Your Body throughout the day
Eat three meals and two snacks. Incorporate a source of protein, fat, and carbohydrate to form a balanced meal so that your blood sugar remains stable. Optimally, you will eat every 3-4 hours. If you wait longer than 4 hours to eat, your blood sugar may get low, which can cause irritability, anger, and mood swings. When you are starving, you are more likely to overeat at your next meal.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. Of course, if you have a medical condition that limits your water intake, then follow the recommendations of your physician or other healthcare providers. You need adequate water for your body to function correctly. When you are dehydrated, you may become sluggish, irritable, and may affect mood swings. Some people can mistake hunger for thirst and overeat. If you do not like the taste of water, you can add sliced oranges, lemons, or limes for flavor. It's best to choose non-caffeinated beverages. In certain people, caffeine can cause anxiety and a reduced ability to handle stress.
3. Avoid processed, sugary foods.
When you eat high sugar foods, it rapidly creates a spike in your blood sugar. Because simple sugars digest quickly, your blood sugar can plunge back down to being low creating a roller coaster effect, which can manifest itself in swings of energy and mood. Low blood sugar can create a craving for more sweets, which continues the roller coaster cycle of blood sugar of ups and downs.
4. Omega 3 Fatty acids
Omega-3 Fatty acids are essential in the diet. Omega 3 fatty acids have been showed to reduce the symptoms of depression. Fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fats. Plants also contain omega-3 fats such as flaxseeds and avocados. If you are taking blood thinners, consult your physician before adding a fish oil supplement. You can always start with eating foods high in omega-3 fats and contact a dietitian for personalized supplement recommendations.
5. Choose nutrient-dense foods for adequate vitamins and minerals.
Your body requires adequate vitamins and minerals to support the production of energy and neurotransmitters. Without these nutrient building blocks, you may lack sufficient neurotransmitters, which may contribute to low energy and depression. Nutritional deficiencies of iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, and tyrosine can also lead to low energy and depression.
Iron: Asparagus, bok choy, dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, etc.), lentils, red meats, and turmeric.
Calcium: Cheese, yogurt, tofu, sardines, milk, fortified non-dairy milk
Magnesium: Black beans, navy beans, soy, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa
Vitamin D3: Egg yolks, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and fortified foods
Thiamin: Lentils, oat, barley and beans
Riboflavin: Broccoli, cheese, chicken, beef, almonds spinach
Niacin: Meats such as beef, chicken turkey, salmon, sardines, and lamb
Vitamin B6: Tuna, turkey, salmon, sardines, beef, chicken, lamb
Folate: Dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, broccoli and beans
Vitamin B12: Yogurt, shrimp, scallops, salmon, eggs, cod, chicken, and beef.
Tyrosine: seaweed, chicken, salmon, turkey, swiss cheese, pumpkin seeds, white beans, eggs
In the beginning, the best way to get started is to start by improving your diet. Food is nourishment, but it is also an instruction manual that activates DNA to produce hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. There are far more phytochemicals and even unknown beneficial ingredients found in food and not in vitamins that affect our health.
Supplements should supplement the diet and not be the main course. Concerning supplements, taking more is not always better. Excessive supplementation may cause body imbalances and toxicity, which can be as harmful as a nutritional deficiency.
Jeremy Thararoop, DCN, RD