Why a Healthy Diet Can Help Fight Depression During a Period of Grief
Losing a loved one is something we all wish we’ll never have to experience. When loss strikes, the pain can feel overwhelming. There’s a whirlwind of emotions to deal with, ranging from shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, and profound sadness.
In most cases, the pain of grief will also interfere with your physical health. You may find it impossible to eat, sleep or even think straight. More often than not, the ensuing mental strain ends in depression.
Grieving the loss of a loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges, and there’s no right way to do it. However, there are some measures you can take to help your body and mind cope better and get you through such tough times.
Besides professional assistance to deal with the depression associated with losing a loved one, there are other lifestyle changes you can apply. In this guide, we discuss how mindful eating will help you tackle depression when dealing with the loss of someone close to you.
A Healthy Diet Improves Mood
As you grieve, a lot of confusion about life and what you should be doing sets in. These feelings are normal and should be felt and managed freely. One crucial part of managing these emotions healthily is stabilizing your mood at the biological level.
Our mood is controlled by both biological and environmental factors. When outside factors become overwhelming and difficult to control, focusing on the inside can help us cope. Some nutrients that will give you the needed fuel include:
Vitamin B12 and B9, also referred to as folate or folic acid, protect the brain and nervous system from damage. They help the body maintain the brain and neural system in a healthy state, reducing the risk of developing mood disorders reduces.
Here are some sources of B vitamins:
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Fruit and fruit juices
- Whole grains
If most or any of these foods aren’t accessible to you, supplements provide a healthy alternative.
One of our body’s natural waste products is free radicals. These occur naturally due to every bodily process that has oxygen as a by-product. Free radicals cause what’s known as oxidative stress which has been linked to many health problems including cancer and depression.
Consuming anti-oxidants such as berries, vegetables, and soy helps reverse any damage from oxidative stress. Studies show that this relief from oxidative stress helps reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Selenium has been lauded by scientists as one of the most important mental health nutrients. It’s been proven to help enhance mood and reduce anxiety, which is key to managing depression.
Rich sources of selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Organ meats such as gizzards, kidneys, and liver
- Whole grains
As mentioned before, our mood is controlled by both internal and external factors. Internally, hormones and other chemicals send signals to the brain and central nervous system to regulate mood. One of the most important hormones for stabilizing mood is serotonin. This hormone is produced by the body with the help of tryptophan, a protein that can be found in other proteinous foods like:
How exactly serotonin helps alleviate depression is rather complex and not that well understood. However, the hormone certainly plays a role in helping us maintain emotional equilibrium, an ability that will come in handy during the grieving period.
Zinc is lower in people with anxiety and depression. The nutrient has also been found to help antidepressants work better. It’s so good at this that it has been used to help patients who have previously shown resistance to antidepressants.
You can get zinc from:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Beef, chicken, and pork
Which Are Some Foods to Avoid?
We’ve provided an exhaustive list of foods you should eat, along with reasons. But are there any foods you should avoid? Certainly:
Although alcohol may be tempting for some, it’s one of the most harmful things to consume in such trying times.
The reprieve it offers is not worth the increased risk of fresh bouts of chronic stress from strained family relations, anxiety, and depression. Also, since grief makes us vulnerable and can even put our lives on hold, adding alcohol to the mix can take our lives totally off balance.
Refined foods often have high levels of sugar and refined carbohydrates. These two foods raise the body’s energy levels but only for a short time; just before the levels come crashing down. This rapid drop destabilizes your mood and can even leave you feeling worse than before.
Unlike folic acid which helps maintain the health of the brain and antioxidants that get rid of free radicals to stop oxidation, refined oils affect the brain by causing inflammation. Inflammation impairs brain function, leaving it vulnerable to the chemical imbalances that cause depression.
Fats to avoid are:
- Fats in red meat
- Safflower and corn oils
Stick to virgin oils and omega-3 fatty acids.
Other Benefits of Sticking to a Healthy Diet During the Grieving Period
Apart from knowing what to eat and what not to eat, are there any other benefits of sticking to a healthy diet during the grieving period? Certainly:
Healthy Diets Increase Energy
Many of the important nutrients listed above are found in whole grains. Unlike refined carbs, whole grains allow for a steady release of energy over an extended period. This method of energy release stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you energized throughout the day.
Low energy makes it harder to handle your emotions, manage stress, and make decisions. The disorder that arises from this can make depression worse.
Diets Encourage Us to Establish Routine
Loss forces us into a new normal and sometimes reverting to old ways is not an option. This situation can be tough. Part of a healthy diet is consistent meal times. Having a semblance of order can help you readjust to your new way of life.
A period of grief is challenging, even for the strongest of us. The mental health strains it causes are also complex and far-reaching. Getting professional and community support will go a long way in helping you cope. Adding a healthy diet to your healing journey will make the process all the more manageable.