The most common medical solutions to treat depression include antidepressants and SSRIs. However, rather than turning to medication, changing the way you eat can help you combat depression. Research has shown that a nutritious diet not only prevents depression but also treats it once it has started.
Epidemiologist Felice Jacka led research that examined whether or not diet plays a role in improving mood. In a group of 67 people with depression, one group was being treated for antidepressants, another group received psychotherapy, and some individuals were treated with both. Half of the individuals were advised by a dietician regarding how to incorporate a healthy diet, while the other half was given social support. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that those that received nutritional counseling showed significantly happier moods compared to those who received social support.
With other studies showing similar results, we have seen the genesis of nutritional psychiatry. This discipline, pioneered by Jacka, aims to demonstrate the role of diet in mental health and to develop nutrition-based strategies to combat brain disorders. Traditional medical education generally does not consist of a well-rounded insight into nutrition; therefore, fields such as nutritional psychiatry are working on adding another layer to medical curriculum because food can apply to other parts of the body. For example, this research study notes that a bad diet affects our microbiome, which consists of gut bacteria that are housed inside of our intestines. Gut bacteria essentially create molecules that affect the production of serotonin in the brain.
You might be asking: what foods can I eat? The research points out to a Mediterranean diet composed of “olive oil, yogurt and cheese, legumes, nuts, and seafood.” Ultimately, this diet would increase good gut-bacteria and enhance our inflammatory responses. Here are some nutrients to consider:
- DHA: Also known as Docosahexaenoic acid, DHA helps in producing BDNF, which is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes the formation of new neurons in the brain. It is also the primary omega-3 fats in the brain.
- Sources of DHA: Wild salmon, oysters, mussels
- Vitamin B6: This vitamin is crucial in serotonin production, which influences sleep and mood. Decreased serotonin is linked to depression, and a daily intake of vitamin B6 is recommended.
- Sources of Vitamin B6: Sweet potatoes, pistachios, chicken
- Probiotics: These are crucial to cultivating good gut-bacteria within the microbiome.
- Sources of Probiotics: Yogurt, kefir, kimchi
- Prebiotics: It is essential for the gut bacteria to have prebiotics to stay alive.
- Sources of Prebiotics: Onions, Garlic, Oats
A proper diet may not completely eliminate medications or therapy. However, “it can act as a supplemental treatment” with no detrimental side effects unlike antidepressants, and in the long run, it acts as a source of prevention for chronic diseases.
Getting Back Into Shape After Quarantine
California has officially begun reopening businesses, including gyms, bars, and retail stores. The gym is the long-awaited reopening for those who can finally use athletic equipment rather than relying on bodyweight exercises to stay in shape.
The motivation to stay active during quarantine is quite difficult trying to use garages or bedrooms as a personal gym without any equipment or legroom available. As gyms reopen, it may be a little intimidating getting back into shape, and you may be wondering how to ease back into your gym routine safely.
Keep in mind that your level of progression is widely based on your total time off, and your level of fitness before it. If you start by placing a high demand on your body, you risk the possibility of injury and a quick regression backward. Being extremely sore the next day does not indicate a quality workout. Here is an outline to guide and help you ease back into your workout without losing motivation or risking injury.
1. Start with Flexibility Workouts
Your first progressive step should be to incorporate a couple of days of flexibility workouts to increase blood flow and circulation while supporting range of motion and joint mobility. Developing flexibility is one of the most overlooked protocols of fitness routines, and building these protocols early on will allow your body to properly readjust to the new demands that will be placed on it. Signing up or participating in a beginner yoga class or videos you can do at home to increase flexibility and build strength. Choose 10 to 15 stretches, performing each flexibility movement for up to one minute.
2. Add Easy Cardio
The next step is integrating light cardiorespiratory workouts after a couple of stretching or yoga sessions. An excellent way to start is a brisk 20-minute outdoor walk that will revitalize your mind and get your body moving again. Other options you can include in your workout, such as low impact HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) for beginners. Machines you can use at your gyms include treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes are great indoor options. If you had a well-established fitness base before a month-long break, your first week might consist of light jogging instead of walking.
3. Start Strength Training
After your first week of flexibility and light cardio, start to incorporate strength workouts into your routine by trying gentle strength training workout for getting back into the gym. The time apart from the gym most likely involved a fair amount of sitting that causes weakness in your posterior chain, which refers to all the muscles on the backside of the body from your head down to your heels. These particular muscles are essential for basic everyday movement and keep your spine upright when at the desk. That is why incorporating exercises that improve your posture, develop core strength, and activate muscles throughout your glutes and hamstrings are essential.
Exercises like squats, lunges, bridges, TRX hamstring curls, stability ball mobility, and core work will help activate these muscles. Bodyweight workouts are ideal for working these muscles and establish a safe transition back into your fitness regimen, and you can work within your fitness level.
4. Begin your workout with a proper warm-up and end with a good cool-down
It is important to begin your workout with a proper warm-up that prepares your body for the increase in activity, and a cool-down helps your heart rate return to normal resting rate. Don’t jump into any physical activity without easing into it. Muscles that have not been accustomed to strenuous activity for a while, and will experience some form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which means you will be tight and achy for 24-72 hours after your workout. You may also experience this when you work out regularly but up to your intensity. With a proper cool-down session, you can help some of the soreness you could experience the day following your workout.
5. And spend a few minutes stretching.
Stretching is an important dynamic when getting back into your fitness routine to help loosen those tight muscles before starting your workouts. After your workout, its good to release that muscle tension.
6. Focus on your form
When you’re getting back into your regular routine, quality will always trump quantity. Maintaining proper form will help target and work your muscles without straining or overexerting yourself. Take your time to focus on your form, breathing, and control. This is extremely important because proper technique and form are crucial to help prevent injury.
7. Don’t skip rest days!
Don’t jump into working out a six-days-a-week workout routine too soon. Recovery is a big part of being active. When you don’t take a day off, your body doesn’t get to take the necessary time to replenish your muscles. Rest days are vital to long-term wellness, and the lifestyle you are recreating for yourself now should consist of frequency. Promoting recovery is a good way to build habits of your workouts without leading to a sprain or strain delaying your workout and fitness routines.
8. Listen to your body
Your body will let you know when it is working hard, but learning the difference between hurts-so-good and hurts-not-so-good will save you a trip to the doctor’s office. If something feels uncomfortable or causes you pain, stop doing whatever is causing your body to feel that way. There is a not-so-fine line between muscle discomfort from a good workout, and pain lets you know something’s not right. Be attentive to your body to help you progress through your workouts safely.
Slowly easing your way to recreating your fitness regimen will help you stay consistent and achieve your fitness goals. It’s important to remember we are all on our fitness journey, so take your time and stay motivated!
7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation refers to your body’s method of protecting itself against things that harm it, including infections, injuries, and toxins. One way to treat inflammation could be a prescription for pain medication. Another way to combat inflammation can come from your local grocery store. Here are seven food items you can find at your local grocery store to help fight your body’s inflammation.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is low-calorie and rich in folate, vitamins C, E, and K, and fiber, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Research has shown that consuming the right amount of cruciferous vegetables can decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. The vegetable’s high amount of antioxidants is related to its anti-inflammatory effects. Broccoli is high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that combats inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which leads to inflammation.
Avocados are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This superfood also contains carotenoids and tocopherols that helps lower the risk of cancer. One study found when people ate a slice of avocado with a hamburger, and they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6. Other participants who ate the burger without avocado had higher levels of the inflammatory markers.
3. Green Tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks you can find on the market. This tea reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other medical conditions. Most of its health benefits derive from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, including the substance epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG helps to reduce inflammation by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells
Bell peppers are not just known for their delicious flavor but are loaded with vitamin c along with chili peppers. Both peppers contain antioxidants that have substantial anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Bell peppers contain the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease Chili peppers have sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which can lead to healthier aging and reduce inflammation.
Turmeric is a spice with a rich, earthy flavor that has a bitter taste and is often used to season or color curry powders, mustards, etc. The flavorful spice has received a considerable amount of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Turmeric lowers inflammation associated with arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.
Sweet and sour cherries are packed with antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, that help fight inflammation. Although the effects of tart cherries have been studied more, sweet cherries also provide health benefits. In one study, participants who ate 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, had lower levels of the inflammatory marker CRP and remained low for 28 days after they stopped consuming cherries
7. Dark chocolate and cocoa
Dark chocolate is supplied with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and can decrease the risk of disease and lead to healthier aging. Flavanol-rich cocoa is responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects and keeps the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy. Be sure to choose dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa; the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better to obtain these anti-inflammatory benefits.
Incorporating healthier options onto your plate won’t provide you with an instant cure for inflammation, but it could help reduce your flare-ups or lower your pain levels. Including anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is a more holistic way of addressing pain and inflammation, as opposed to taking medication.
The Rundown of the Impossible Burger
With the human population immensely increasing each decade, the concern of utilizing all of our resources and making the Earth uninhabitable has loomed over our heads. Fortunately, back in 2011, Impossible Foods Inc. seemingly achieved the impossible, creating a plant-based burger that mimics the color, smell, and flavor of the meat. By replacing meat with plant-based “meat,” Impossible Foods Inc. hopes to reduce the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the Earth to restore natural ecosystems. Food scientists at Impossible Foods Inc. discovered that heme is the ingredient that gives meat that “meaty” flavor that people crave. Heme, located in hemoglobin, plays a vital role in animals by allowing the bloodstream to carry oxygen throughout the body.
A common reason why many people switch to being vegetarian and vegan is to live a healthier lifestyle. However, are these plant-based “meats” really healthier compared to their meat counterparts? The answer is not really. One of the main ingredients in the Impossible Burger is coconut oil. Although it is perceived as a “healthy” fat, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association also advises against consuming coconut oil. Upon comparing the Impossible Burger to its other burger counterparts, we see the following:
- Impossible burger: 240 calories with 8g of saturated fat
- Beef burger: 280 calories with 9g of saturated fat
- Veggie burgers are not meant to mimic meat: 150-160 calories with 4g of saturated fat
The Impossible burger has fewer calories and grams of saturated fat than the beef burger; however, it contains more sodium than its meat and veggie burger counterparts. Even though the Impossible Burger may be better for the environment, they are not necessarily nutritionally healthier for consumers. The Impossible Burger is a good alternative for people who are vegetarian to reduce the consumption of animal-based foods. However, a traditional veggie burger is a healthier choice due to its low-fat content. Overall, Impossible Foods Inc. has created a viable alternative to classic burgers, striving to achieve what seems to be impossible.
Megan Wroe, MS, RD, CNE, CLEC
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