At a Glance
- Depression is an illness that affects more than 15 million people in the US, and more than 300 million people worldwide.
- There are many different factors that increase the likelihood of depression.
- Symptoms result from changes in the numerous and complex chemical reactions in the brain.
- Juicing is a great way to combat depression by providing the body with nutrients to support the production and regulation of chemicals which affect depression.
There’s no two ways about it. Depression is a horrible illness, and made all the worse for the lack of physical symptoms, which makes everyone around you think you’re doing OK when inside you feel your world is crumbling.
Believe me, I can sympathize.
I’m quite willing to hold my hands up and say it has affected me on more than one occasion in the past.
I’ve been prescribed medications that didn’t appear to make me feel any better, but gave me electric shocks all over my body when reducing the dose to wean off them.
Thankfully, I now seem to be on top of my symptoms. I began to wonder if it had anything to do with some changes I made in my lifestyle, including regular juicing.
After investigating the ingredients I’ve been using in my juices, I found some scientific evidence to support the theory that juicing probably helped my symptoms a lot.
I’ve included some of my favorite recipes I’ve been using to give you some ideas about what juicing might do for you too.
What Is Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is an illness that causes negative thought patterns which affect the way you think, feel and act. Depression can vary in severity and symptoms, which include:
- Feelings of sadness and worthlessness
- Feeling hopeless and/or empty inside
- Little or no interest in activities
- Sleeping for long periods of time, or insomnia
- Tiredness, no energy
- Overeating, or poor appetite
- Poor concentration and memory
- Inability to make choices and decisions
- Sudden mood swings
- Social withdrawal
- Aches and pains with no physical cause
- Thoughts or attempts of suicide
Some of these symptoms can be normal reactions to traumatic life events, like a death in the family. However, if they have no identifiable cause, or symptoms remain unchanged for two weeks or more, it’s an indication there could be a problem. (source)
What Causes Depression?
The physical chemistry or how depression occurs is a complex subject, but scientists have now identified several biological and social risk factors for depression.
This includes genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain and nervous system, personality type and the effect of our personal, work and social situation.
The most common chemicals associated with producing depressive symptoms are serotonin, dopamine and homocysteine.
The wide range of possible chemical changes in the brain that can cause depression explains why there is such a wide range of symptoms, and also why two people with depression can have completely different presentations. (source)
What If I Think I Have Depression?
If you are concerned you may be suffering from depression, it’s essential to go and check your symptoms with your doctor. The symptoms listed above can be signs of other health conditions, so the correct diagnosis is important.
In addition, your doctor can assess the severity and type of depression, provide advice, onward specialist referral and medication as appropriate.
There are also some things that you can do to help yourself. The National Institute of Mental Health provides some great information and advice about depression here.
One activity that has been proven to help people suffering from depression is mediation – research clearly indicates a beneficial effect, and it’s something you can do on your own. The Mindful organization has highlighted five useful free meditation apps here.
Depression and Nutrition
There is strong evidence to suggest that diet is very important in relation to depression.
One of many studies found that a person with a diet which includes lots of processed foods, which contain high levels of chemicals that are toxic to the nervous system, is 60% more likely to suffer from depression compared to diets which include lots of whole foods. (source)
Diet can have a big impact on metabolic functions, including your body’s production of hormones and other chemicals, the amount of energy you have and the way your brain and nervous system work. All of these factors can positively or negatively affect depression.
How Can Juicing Help Depression?
Juicing can help depression by providing your body with natural sources of vitamins, mineral and other nutrients that help to moderate the chemical processes which contribute to depression.
There are many different nutrients in a wide range of fruits and vegetables which have been shown to help improve the symptoms of depression. Juicing gives the advantage of being able to consume high concentrations of lots of nutrients in one go, rather than having to plough through eating huge amounts of whole fresh produce.
Which Foods Can Help Depression?
There is a wide range of fruit and vegetables that can help to improve the symptoms of depression. With a little experimentation, juicing gives you the flexibility to develop a repertoire of recipes that work specifically for you.
Here are some common ingredients and why they help:
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Produce like kale, spinach, chard and mustard greens are rich in folate, which helps the body to control the level of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with low mood and depression. (source)
Research indicates that citrus fruit can help to lift mood due to their high level of antioxidants and folate. The vitamin C in citrus fruit has also been identified as being important in the regulation of dopamine. (source)
Broccoli comes from the same family as Brussels sprouts and cabbage. These are all good sources of folate and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found in research to have a significant positive effect in people with depression. (source)
There is strong scientific evidence that curcumin, one of the most active ingredients in turmeric, can be very effective in helping to decrease several symptoms of depression. (source)
Ginger contains the compound curcumin, proven to help with depression. It also contains compounds that have been shown to improve overall brain function.
Research indicates compounds in ginger can improve memory and boost levels of neurotransmitters. These are chemicals in your brain that control, for example, mood and sleep, as well as increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine. (source)
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries…they’re all packed with lots of antioxidants, which absorb free radical chemicals in the body.
Research indicates that high levels of antioxidant can significantly reduce many of the symptoms of depression.
Most berries also contain folate, also beneficial for depression because it acts as a neurotransmitter and helps in the production of serotonin. (source)
In addition to being a great source of antioxidants and many other plant compounds, tomatoes contain lycopene.
Lycopene has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties which directly affect the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord. In addition, lycopene has been shown to significantly improve the symptoms of depression in research trials. (source)
Juicing beetroot and its leaves provides the body with B vitamins and plant compounds called tyrosine and betaine which support the production of happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin and regulate homocysteine.
The phytochemical betaine has been shown in research to help improve symptoms of depression and enhance the action of some antidepressant medications. (source)
This juicy fruit is not only a great source of hydration, it’s also packed full of antioxidants, B vitamins – including folate, and lycopene.
Not only does watermelon contain lots of different compound beneficial for depression, it also tastes great, and makes a fantastic addition to juice recipes.
Juicing Recipes for Depression
These are the original recipes I was using when I noticed an improvement in my symptoms. I use all kinds of different ingredients now – it’s great to experiment, but try these out for yourself.
#1 Spicy Citrus Boost
This juice is great for hydration, contains lots of antioxidants and supports the production of chemicals in the body that help to improve mood.
- 1-2 inch piece turmeric
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 2 cups chard
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 orange, peeled
- 1 lemon
- 1 large beetroot with leaves
- 1 medium apple
- Juice the turmeric, ginger, chard and spinach
- Juice the orange and lemon
- Juice the beetroot and apple
- Pour and serve
#2 Blissful Blast
This juice is a relatively low calorie juice, so perfect for evenings to give your body time to use all the folate, omega-3s and antioxidants.
- 6 leaves kale
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup watermelon
- 3 sticks celery
- 1 lemon
- 1 medium cucumber
- 2 medium apples
- Juice the kale, spinach, watermelon and celery
- Juice the lemon, cucumber and apple
- Add ice and serve immediately
#3 Cheery Cherry Berry
The taste of this juice alone is enough to improve my mood! It makes a great start to any day, and is packed with antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.
- 1 cup tart cherries, de-stoned
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup raspberries
- 2 kiwi fruits
- 2 medium apples
- Juice the cherries and berries
- Juice the kiwi fruits and apples
- Serve immediately
#4 Perfect Pineapple
The pineapple in this juice does a really good job at hiding the kale. This is a really nicely balanced, refreshing and hydrating juice.
- 4 kale leaves
- 1 cup broccoli
- ½ medium pineapple
- ½ lemon
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1 medium green apple
- Juice kale, broccoli, pineapple and lemon
- Juice the cucumber, sweet potato and apple
- Pour over ice and serve
#5 Sunny Saver
This sweet and tasty juice is packed to the brim full of vitamin C antioxidants, natural anti-inflammatories and nutrients to help moderate symptoms.
- 1 inch piece turmeric root
- 1 inch piece ginger root
- 2 sticks celery
- 1 lemon
- 2 medium pears
- 2 medium apples
- Juice the turmeric and ginger with the celery
- Juice the lemon, pears and apples
- Serve and enjoy