Fighting depression with food and exercise

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — September is Suicide Prevention month. Depression is a contributor to suicide and can be affected by weather, foods and exercise.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is related to changes in the seasons.

For most people, SAD symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months.

About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year.

SAD may begin at any age, but it typically starts when a person is between 18 and 30-years-old

It’s diagnosed 4 times more often in women than men.


The specific cause of SAD is unknown. But there are some factors that may come into play:

  • Biological Clock: Reduced level of sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin Levels: Drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin.
  • Melatonin Levels: The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Foods to fight depression

What you eat can make a difference when you're battling depression. There are many choices that are considered "good mood" foods.

  • Fresh fruits and veggies--filled with depression-fighting antioxidants
  • Eggs--boost serotonin/poached or hard-boiled, best option
  • Whole grains-fight anxiety and depression/many options to choose from
  • Low-fat dairy--proteins can give sense of well-being and relaxation/milk and yogurt, good options
  • Unsalted nuts--gives serotonin a boost, making you feel happier

5 Foods to Avoid if Fighting Depression:

  • Processed meats like hot dogs--artery-clogging saturated fats reduce blood flow to brain
  • Fried foods including chicken--trans fats from hydrogenated oil can contribute to depression
  • Salty foods like chips--excess sodium can disrupt neurological system
  • Sugary foods like donuts--sugar rush, then crash
  • Diet soda or drinks with aspartame--can block serotonin

5 More Foods to Fight Depression:

  • Turkey--tryptophan boost serotonin
  • Salmon or tuna--Omega-3 can help improve mood
  • Dark chocolate--contains tryptophan to enhance mood (70% or high cocoa bean)
  • Green tea--contains anti-stress amino acid, theanine
  • Chia and flax seeds--good source of Omega-3 (add to smoothies, yogurts, oatmeal)

Exercise to fight depression

What's one prescription that can help you fight depression, help you sleep better, make your heart healthier, and even help you lose weight? It's exercise.

Studies show in mild to moderate cases of depression, exercise can be as effective as anti-depressant medication. You have to get in 45 to 60 minutes each day to really help.

That seems like a lot, but here are some ways to get it done without thinking about it too much:

Ways to get moving:

  • Walk and talk: when a call comes in, get up and start walking around the room while you're on the phone.
  • Half-empty, half-full: fill a water bottle only half way, forcing you to get up more often to fill it.
  • 60 second aerobics: jumping jacks, running in place, simulate jump roping.
  • Dance (like nobody’s watching)

Other activities you can turn into a workout:

  • Cleaning the house: increase your workout by moving furniture to vacuum and reaching up to dust those high spots.
  • Washing your car: can burn 135 calories in 30 minutes - add leg squats for an extra workout.
  • Walking the dog: three 10-minute daily walks equals 30 minutes of fitness.
  • Grocery shopping: park away from the store and take a trip down all the aisles.
  • Take the stairs: try going up and down your staircase several times a day; increase your workout by skipping a stair as you climb up.
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