Did you know that, back in 1905, only 1% of Americans had depression before the age of 75? In 1955, that number increased to 6% of Americans under the age of 24.
So what happened?
The introduction of white bread happened. White bread was the darling of the 1950’s food industry and quickly became the norm in everyone’s diet. However, it is nearly devoid of important essential elements like magnesium and zinc, which are found in abundance in whole grain foods.
While you can’t lay the entire blame on white bread, it certainly was a contributing factor. And, with today’s diet of highly processed foods, many Americans are simply not getting essential elements like zinc, magnesium, iron, and lithium, which the brain needs to function well.
If your diet is full of highly processed foods, your moodiness or depression may, in part, be tied to a deficiency in these vital elements. Let’s take a look at some of these essential elements and the roles they play in good mental health.
In-sync with Zinc
Zinc has long been recognized as one of the most common essential elements in the fight against depression. Early clinical studies reported lower zinc serum in depressed patients compared to healthy patients. The more depressed the patients is, the lower the zinc level.
Why is zinc so important? It plays a key role in regulating the brain and body’s response to stress. More than 300 enzymes in our bodies use zinc to help them function properly, plus zinc acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant. Found in its largest concentrations in the brain, a lack of zinc can lead to symptoms of depression, ADHD, difficulties with learning and memories, seizures, aggression and violence.
The body does not have a special zinc storage capability, and much of the zinc we have is lost during bouts of stress, especially prolonged stress, so it is important to ingest zinc on a regular basis by consuming foods like meat, poultry and oysters. Beans and grains also provide zinc (depending on the soils in which they are grown), but the phytates in these foods can interfere with zinc absorption.
Magnify with Magnesium
Magnesium has an important biochemical role in our bodies, ensuring that over 325 enzymes function properly, most of which are located in the brain. It also plays an important role in how muscles contract and nerves send signals.
Studies dating as far back as 1921 show magnesium as a vital element in the treatment of depression. Plus, a ground-breaking study in 1968 by Wacker and Parisi revealed that a deficiency in magnesium could contribute to depression, headaches and behavioral disturbances, among a long list of other mental issues, all which were reversed when magnesium was supplemented in the patient’s diet.
More modern case studies show that magnesium therapy has reversed anxiety and suicidal thoughts, cured insomnia, restored short-term memory and IQ, suppressed cravings for tobacco and alcohol, and has even overcome post-partum depression.
Again, the highly-processed food we eat and the municipal treated water we drink are nearly devoid of magnesium, causing most adults to be in magnesium deficiency to a lesser or, sometimes greater, degree. Couple that with high stress levels in the modern world, which can zap the magnesium from your body, it is little wonder that the rates of depression and mental illnesses are higher now than ever before.
Healthy doses of this “cure-all” can be found in seafood, mineral water, and organ meats. By increasing the intake of these foods, you can restore the magnesium in your body and use it as an aid in treating moodiness and depression.
Curb the Calcium
Most people are aware that calcium plays a very important role in our bone health and the fight against osteoporosis. Did you know that excessive calcium might play a part in affective disorders, leading to depression and bipolar behavior?
Calcium is present in abundance within the human body and 99% of it resides in our bones. This essential element regulates the functioning of neurotransmitters, muscle contraction, helps enzymes function, and assists in blood clotting.
Too much calcium, however, blocks the absorption of magnesium and zinc into the blood stream. As we discussed above, low levels of magnesium and zinc can lead to depression and moodiness, as well as migraines, manic episodes and seizure disorders. It is important to reach the recommended daily allowance of 1,000mg through the intake of mineral water, leafy greens and dairy but it may not necessarily be a good idea to use large amounts of calcium in a supplement form.
Improve Your Food, Improve Your Mood
With countless studies having been performed in the past century tying poor food intake and low essential element levels to mood and depressive disorders, you cannot ignore the role that your diet plays in the way you feel and function, both physically and mentally.
If you want to make a positive change in your life to improve your mood, start with your food. Cut down on processed food intake and add seafood, leafy greens, dairy, red meat, chicken, and eggs to your diet. If you are unable to tolerate some of these foods, be sure to boost your mineral intake with zinc and magnesium supplements. And, as always prior to major dietary changes, consult with your doctor.
Remember, as the old adage goes, “you are what you eat”. Start improving your mood by improving your food.