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In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it was only appropriate to highlight postpartum depression and mood disorders, and the role that nutrition plays in helping to prevent and manage these conditions.  

If you think postpartum depression is rare, think again.  Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects up to 15% of mothers every year. This number may be even higher as many women may be afraid to speak up.  Chances are someone you know has suffered from it.  It is often undiagnosed or the symptoms may often be disregarded as typical “baby blues.”  Know you’re not alone and it’s not your fault!

Nutrition may not be the first thing that comes to mind in preventing or treating depression, but deficiencies in certain nutrients can increase your risk.  More and more research is starting to show this. Your diet choices can play a huge part in how you feel and there are certain foods that can help, especially if you would rather not go on medication if you don’t have to. It’s easy to get so busy in your day to day life that your nutrition becomes an afterthought, but I promise you it does not have to be hard!

Here are the top foods that can reduce your risk of postpartum depression and help to improve your mood:

Fatty fish. Fish like wild salmon and sardines, as well as flax seed and chia seed.  These foods contain omega-3 fats such as DHA that have been shown to help improve your mood and mental focus. There have been studies which have shown reduced risk of depression, including postpartum depression in countries consuming larger amounts of these foods.  These types of fish are also lower in mercury, but if you’re pregnant the recommendation is to limit to 12 oz per week.  This amount will give you plenty of the DHA your body needs.  Salmon is also a great source of selenium which is a mineral also shown to be connected to your mood and depression risk.

Eggs.  Eggs are a great quality protein sources that also contain DHA.  Protein helps to satisfy you in between meals, stabilizing your blood sugar and helping to regulate your mood.  Keeping your blood sugar steady is important both during pregnancy and postpartum to keep your energy level up and prevent those hangry mood swings.

Greek yogurt, preferably plain as it contains less added sugar.  Greek yogurt is a great source of Vitamin D which many of us tend to be deficient in.  Vitamin D plays a huge role in your mood and your blood sugar control.  Greek yogurt is also a great protein source, is an easy snack to have around, and is filling.

Beans and Lentils.  These foods are high in B-vitamins which are involved in neurotransmitter communication in your brain (helping your brain cells to talk to each other) which help regulate your mood and feelings.  They also are high in fiber which can help overcome any constipation issues you may be having from your iron supplements.

Nuts, particularly cashews, are high in zinc which has been shown to play a role in postpartum depression.  Nuts are also a really convenient snack you can have anytime or on the go.  Nuts are also one of the best snacks to have if you have gestational diabetes, helping to stabilize your blood sugar.

Make sure to incorporate these foods regularly into your diet if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are in the postpartum period. Know that even if you can’t control some risk factors such as your genetic risk, your nutrition is one thing that you can control.  Get your nutrients checked to know your numbers so that if you’re deficient, you can then reach out to me and we can work together to fix that.  I’ll help you get on a plan to reduce your risk and get the nutrients you need so that you can give your baby the best possible nutrition.