Depression and Anxiety Nutrition Strategies, part 3 of 3


More strategies, if you’re serious about addressing what causes your depression and/or anxiety:

5.      High-fructose corn syrup has to go. I noticed that any HFCS, such as found in candy, drinks, and cheap processed food, caused me anxiety for several days after I ate it. In a few times in my life, when life circumstances were taxing my coping abilities, bad nutrition even contributed to brief, dark depressions.

No treat is worth that. I have studiously avoided HFCS for years. Refined sugar is terrible for anyone with a tendency towards mood disorders, but HFCS is the very worst. Most packaged drinks and candy have HFCS as a main ingredient. It’s in many breads, condiments, soups, and cereals, too. Not only does it create a heavy drain on your pancreas and liver, causing your insulin to go haywire and your triglycerides to skyrocket, but it is virtually always genetically modified, too. You will also pay the price, over time, in your gut health, if you eat products containing HFCS.

6.      Are you getting enough essential fatty acids? 80 percent of Americans are deficient in Omega 3. Many studies link deficiency to depression, since you must have Omega-3 to break down and transmit serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine.

And it’s not just the quantity of Omega 3 that is the problem. It’s the excesses of Omega 6, probably largely because of consumption of refined oils (anyone eating fried foods, chips, etc.), which are high in 6.

To get control of this balance, eliminating toxic refined oil in your diet has to be part of the solution.

The other part is to get 2-3 Tbsp. of chia, flax, and / or hemp seed in your diet. The sprouted varieties of these seeds are more bioavailable than the plain seed or seed oils.

Use 1 Tbsp. chia seed soaked in 3 Tbsp. of water as an egg replacer in a baking recipe. Or make chia pudding.

You can drink 1 Tbsp. chia in a glass of water as an appetite suppressant, if eating later at night is a problem for you. Then, you’re covering your Omega 3 need at the same time. Chia has a phenomenal nutritional profile, in addition to the Omegas—lots of calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and protein.

7.       Is your weight in the “ideal” range? Even ten pounds of extra weight, studies show, can dramatically affect not only feelings of self-worth, but also lightness of mood. Chronically heavy mood is not a natural state, to be accepted over time as simply a part of your personality. It is a problem as biological in nature as multiple sclerosis or asthma are.

Extra weight heavily taxes the endocrine system (hormones), and imbalances of hormones cause depressed feelings—which make it hard to problem-solve life circumstances. And those things contribute to more weight gain—so it’s a vicious cycle! Of course the last 10 lbs. are the most stubborn, but the clear path to getting rid of them is to eliminate white flour and sugar.

You will not miss them like you think you will. I immediately signed on for a second year of my $10,000 no-sugar bet, because when $10k is at stake, I don’t fret over whether to eat the brownie or not. I think about other, more interesting things, like enjoying my friends at the party.

8.      If you are taking SSRI’s or other drugs, consult your doctor before adding any natural, adjunct therapies, because adverse reactions can occur when using both Prozac (for instance) and herbal treatments. The following are the most well-known and well-studied herbs for depression and anxiety.

St. Johns Wort is helpful for depression, with at least 10 active constituents involved in that intervention, especially hypericin and pseudohypericin. It apparently works in part by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. Drugs do not operate by utilizing metabolic pathways.

Kava is the most-studied as being efficacious for anxiety and insomnia. Kava affects a GABA-receptor-binding capacity and blocks norepinephrine uptake. One study in Germany found it to have effects equal to benzodiazepines, but without side effects.

Other supplements shown to be effective against depression include L-tryptophan, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP).

Their function is to increase beta-endorphins, your “feel-good” hormones. A typical dose of 5-HTP is 200 mg per day, and this supplement can be found online or in health food stores.

chia seed and flax seed

So you’ve been reading about chia seed.   (I know this because I get lots of questions about it.)   Yep, I’m talking about the little things that grow the chia pet, now getting lots of attention as a power food.   And it is.   A highly expensive one (I bought a pound of it recently for about $18).

Chia seed has 7 times as much iron as spinach.   At 18%, it has more protein than beef, and its amino acids comprise  a complete protein.   It slows conversion of sugars in the bloodstream, so it’s great to eat with a  high-sugar meal.   (I mean  like potatoes or fruit–hopefully y’all have abandoned or are at least minimizing refined sugars.)

Its mucilaginous properties mean it absorbs toxins, and it’s fantastic for weight loss.   I don’t like to eat after dinner, so if my dinner was light and I get really hungry later, what I do is eat a large spoonful of chia seed and chase it with a big glass of water.   It absorbs 10 times its own weight in fluids, so it fills you up when you are hungry with hardly any calories.

It tastes mild–tastes like nothing, really.   You can sprinkle it in cereal, or put it in a smoothie–but it will dramatically thicken your smoothie.   For that matter, it’s a great thickener!   Put 1  tsp. chia seed in 3 Tbsp. water, and you’ve got yourself an egg replacement.

It’s packed with those rare Omega fatty acids that your body cannot manufacture and must receive from foods–in perfect proportions.   And it stores for a very long time!

I highly recommend it.   I’ll find a way eventually to get it for cheaper in a local group buy (maybe national–we’ll see!).   I wish it were less expensive.

Now flax seed is still quite inexpensive at less than $1/lb.   You can watch my YouTube video making flax crackers if you want to hear more about its virtues, or read Ch.  4 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods. (All my demos are on under the Videos tab now–and I have lots of new ones coming.)

Just want to share a thought from GSG reader Rochelle T., who happens to also be my cousin, whom I set up with her husband 19 years ago!   (I have 65 first cousins, 49 of them Romneys, but she’s the one I’ve been closest to my whole life–now she has 5 children.)   She was trying to figure a way to get flaxseed in her diet every day.   She just eats a spoonful of ground flax seed every morning, chasing it with water.   She says it’s nutty and pleasant tasting and it’s a great habit she’s gotten into.   Great idea.   Keep in mind that grinding flax seed (unnecessary with chia) makes its nutritional properties much more available.   Just don’t grind it far in advance, as it goes rancid quickly.

Hope this is helpful!

extra ingredients for green smoothies [part 4 of 7]

Goji berries

Goji berries are an interesting food because they are consumed regularly by the Earth’s longest-living people for at least 1,700 years, as well as used medicinally.   As scientists began to study their properties, they found that the fruit is 13 percent protein, which is unheard of for a fruit, and will increase the protein ratio of almost any green smoothie.

They also have several B vitamins and Vitamin E, also rare in fruits, 18 amino acids, and possibly more antioxidants than any other food ever studied (chocolate is a competitor).   Remember that antioxidants are scavenging free radicals, literally mopping up those little cancer-causing destroyers in the body.   Many of the compounds found in abundance in the goji berry are so newly researched that we are only just beginning to understand how these nutrients cause increased disease resistance.

Goji berries are very expensive, up to $20/lb.   I and some of my local readers have planted goji plants, which do well in cold winter climates, since the indigenous climates it originates in (such as Tibet) are cold and mountainous as well.   The bushes become fairly large and grow quickly.

Acai berries (pronounced “ah-sah-ee”)

Acai is a very trendy health product showing up in mostly overpriced pasteurized juices sold through network marketing channels.   It’s native to the Amazon rainforests and, like gojis, they are off the chart in antioxidants and anthocyanins that have been studied for their presence in red wine and their heart-protecting benefits (but without the attendant health problems caused by alcohol).   Like gojis, acai berries are also high in essential fatty acids, the omega-6’s and omega-9’s, and they are very expensive.

I would recommend, if you do want to spend the money, buying the whole berries rather than concentrated juices.   The juices are artificially high in sugars, even if they are natural sugars, and highly acidic as well.   The nutrients may be concentrated, but pasteurized juices have no enzymes and therefore draw on the body’s ability to manufacture them, and sugars are concentrated as well.   Wherever possible, use the whole food rather than a processed or reduced version of them.    

fish oil vs flax oil

Fish oil vs flax oil: which is better?   Fish oils are rich in Essential Fatty Acids, and most people  have thought for the past 10+ years that they are the best source.   This is because  research on EFAs focused on the fish oils for many years.   A very recent study said those taking isolated fish-oil supplements did not have better cardiovascular markers, contrary to popular belief.   Harvard-educated M.D. Donald Rudin says that his own research yielded better results with flaxseed oil.

Fish oil is problematic for a few reasons.   First, contaminants  in water sources mean a lot of fish  contain mercury or other heavy metals, or toxins called lipid peroxides.   Second, some experts say fish oil is  indigestible in the gut (that’s why you burp it up for hours after taking it).   Third,  heat destroys  the EFA alpha linolenic acid in cooking, which is something to consider if you’re getting your EFAs from eating fish.   Fourth, fish oil is  about five times more  expensive, ounce for ounce, than  flax oil.    (And probably about 20 times more expensive than whole flaxseed!)

Fish oil advocates claim that you get EPA and DHA (two fatty acids) from animal sources, whereas flax is low in DHA.   True, but on the other hand, the human body needs very little DHA, as it is stored in the cells and does not need to be replaced often.

Further,  flax is a whole plant food with lots of fiber and many other virtues, including anti-inflammatory, tumor-inhibiting, and mood- and hormone-regulating compounds.   In fact, I believe flaxseed to be potentially the most nutritious food on the planet.   The fish oil vs flax oil debate isn’t over, but  the more I read  on newer research, the more firmly convinced I become that flax will win in the end.

benifits of flax seed

Yesterday I wrote about the benifits of flax seed.   (I misspelled that word on purpose—long story.)   Possibly the very best way to get Essential Fatty Acids is in the form of flax and/or its oil.   However, two cautions are in order.   First, smell the seeds when you purchase them (and look at the expiration date to make sure that they are fresh).   You can usually tell if they smell rancid.   Grind them in your BlendTec right before using them, as they oxidize quickly and have a shelf life of only a few months.   Second, whole flax seeds pass through the intestine doing little other than absorbing liquid, if they aren’t broken down.   So chew flax very well if you eat it whole, or grind it instead.  

You can get your EFAs easily from high-quality flax oil, which must be purchased refrigerated in dark bottles at health food stores.   Barlean’s and Udo’s are excellent brands that use organic flax and refrigerate it from production to point of sale.   One tablespoon of flax oil daily provides an adequate quantity of EFAs with the ideal Omega 3:6 ratio.   Including the whole seed in your diet, as well, will be less expensive and will add dietary fiber.   We will focus on flax seeds again in Ch. 7 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

 In addition to flax, foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids also include walnuts, pumpkin or sesame seeds, avocados, and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collards.   Eating these foods may be even better than eating the oil, because their nutrition will be utilized by the body throughout the day.   I also like hempseed protein powder, which I add to virtually any breakfast (12 Steps to Whole Foods, Ch. 10, or the new recipe collection in my store).   Uses for pumpkin and sesame seeds are found in several chapters of 12 Steps and several of the recipe collections.

health benefits of flax

Today I start blogging, in several parts, on good fats.   Hopefully Myth #3 of my Nutrition Manifesto has convinced you to get plenty of good fats in your diet every day?   This week, I’ll post a new YouTube vid showing how to make Flax-Veggie crackers to address ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS, today’s and tomorrow’s topic.   So if you haven’t subscribed to my vids (it’s free!), go to YouTube, find me by searching for “green smoothie” (I’m either #1 or #2), and subscribe!   You’ll be notified every time I post a new demo.   12 Steppers, on April 1, you’ll get a chapter on good fats, with recipes and ideas on how to get them in your diet daily.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are the unsaturated omega-3 (alpha-lenolenic acid) and omega-6 (alpha-lenoleic acid) fats.   They’re called “essential” because the body cannot manufacture them and therefore must be supplied by diet.   (Your body can produce adequate omega-9s if enough essential fats are available.)   These fats support many of the body’s systems, including the nervous, immune, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems.   EFAs are used by the body to make and repair cell membranes and eliminate waste from cells.   They also produce prostoglandins, which regulate blood pressure, clotting, heart rate, and fertility.   EFAs are particularly critical for babies, pregnant women, and children for neural development.

Americans are omega-3 deficient.   We need a ratio of between 1:1 and 4:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, but most Americans get between 10:1 and 25:1.   Deficiencies in omega 3, as well as inappropriate omega 6 to omega 3 ratios, have been linked to many of the diseases the U.S. leads the world in: depression, cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, lupus, diabetes, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s.   Americans get too much omega 6 partly because of our reliance on processed vegetable oils, which are high in damaged, low-grade versions of that nutrient.

If anyone experiences symptoms of depression, the first thing I recommend trying is flaxseed or flax oil in the diet every day, which can create dramatic improvement.   Yet another reason to enjoy foods rich in EFAs is that they have the effect of combating damage done by the “bad fats.”   The phytoestrogens in flax  are known to  balance hormones for women: too-high estrogen counts tend to come down, and too-low estrogen counts tend to come up, eating flaxseed.   And compounds in this power food are well established tumor inhibitors, so anyone with a history or risk for cancer should take note.


The American Cancer Institute acknowledges 27 different compounds in flaxseed that are anti-carcinogenic!   In recent years, a hot topic of research is the lignan compounds, a special carbohydrate known to prevent both cancer and heart disease, as well as inflammatory conditions.   Flax has the highest known concentration of these lignans, 75 times higher than the next-highest food.

Sold on flax yet?   Read tomorrow for more about eating it.