There are certainly a number of reasons to feel down as we get older: loss of friends, loss of loved ones, loss of mobility, having to move, and so on.

When you are faced with enough stressful situations for long enough, your defenses can give way. It is normal to feel blue, for a while, at least. But did you know that prolonged stress has an effect on your body, not just your mind?

Any kind of chronic stress affects your nervous system. You make more of the pro-stress hormones like adrenaline, and less of the anti-stress ones. Too much adrenaline, too often, and your whole body becomes inflamed. So, chronic stress can lead to chronic, low-grade inflammation.

Even worse, inflammation can actually cause depression, even without the stress. And depression causes more inflammation – a vicious cycle.

In fact, in some cases of severe depression doctors have prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, along with anti-depressants, and have seen better responses than they were getting with anti-depressants alone.

Another source of inflammation is often found in your diet. So, a few dietary adjustments might just be the thing to pick up your mood.

Sugar

Sugar is everywhere, including places where it should not be, like pasta sauce. Sugar is, also – literally – addictive. Read labels of sauces that you buy. If they contain sugar, try versions without sweeteners. Find one you like, switch over, and you have just painlessly decreased one cause of inflammation.

Use a natural non-sugar sweetener like stevia instead of sugar. If it doesn’t taste quite right to you, try changing brands. Different brands have slightly different tastes, and by changing brands you might find one you like better.

Herbs and Spices

Did you know that most herbs and spices fight inflammation? Use as much as you want of the following ones:

  • Cinnamon – in desserts and coffee cake, of course, but also in coffee and tea, and in meat and poultry dishes, too.
  • Turmeric – often used in Indian cuisine. You absorb more if you use it with black pepper, also part of Indian dishes.
  • Oregano and basil – essential for pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce – and the Mediterranean diet. You can grow them in pots on your kitchen windowsill.
  • Bay leaves – great in spaghetti sauce.
  • Rosemary – try in potato dishes.
  • Thyme – think chicken, especially chicken soup.

More Fish

Oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory action and help prevent heart disease, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Salmon, sardines, and herring are your best choices.

Less Fried Food

Frying in oil, with or without a coating, makes any food more inflammatory. Try to lower your intake of French fries, fried fish, and chicken nuggets.

More Vegetables

Most vegetables have anti-inflammatory effects. Eat a variety of colors to get all the anti-inflammatory ingredients. If you don’t like vegetables that well, and have difficulty increasing them in your diet, there are ways to hide them and sneak them into your meals.

Here is a list of the ones that are most beneficial:

  • Leafy greens – both cooked and in salads;
  • Broccoli family – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale;
  • Carrots;
  • Tomatoes;
  • Onions and garlic;
  • Other veggies – add as many different colors as you can.

More Fruits

Although fresh fruits are known to be good for your health, be careful here – fruits that are too high in fructose can be harmful. Great choices include:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Apricots
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches

Whole Grains

Fiber found in whole grains helps nourish the good bacteria in your gut. This has actually been shown to decrease inflammation in your whole body. I have not listed grains high in gluten as gluten is inflammatory for many people. Try:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Millet

More Poultry, Less Red Meat

Meat from conventionally-raised sheep and cattle is pro-inflammatory. Grass-fed, grass-finished meat is better for you, but poultry is best. Go for:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Quail

Red Wine

Red wine has resveratrol found in red grape skins. Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory action. One 5-ounce glass of wine per day has been shown to help decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. A few varieties are listed below.

  • Burgundy
  • Pinot noir
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet sauvignon
  • Red zinfandel

Anti-Inflammatory Spaghetti Sauce

Keeping all of the above in mind, here is a healthy anti-inflammatory recipe for spaghetti sauce:

Ingredients

1 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb ground turkey

1 28-oz can of tomatoes, canned in tomato juice (not tomato sauce)

2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce

½ cup red wine

1 bay leaf

½ tsp basil

¼ tsp oregano

¼ tsp pepper

Directions

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, over low heat, until onion is slightly translucent. Add turkey, chopping up the meat to crumble it and cook until it is no longer pink.

Add the tomatoes and cut them into smaller pieces with your spatula. Add all the rest of the ingredients, cover, and simmer for at least half an hour. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. (This is a low salt recipe, so you may wish to add salt.)

Notes: The flavor gets better the longer it cooks. After sautéing the onion, garlic, and ground turkey, all ingredients can be added to a crock pot and cooked on low for 6 to 8 hours.

You can make this sauce without pre-cooking the onion, garlic, and turkey, but the pre-cooking process adds additional flavor. If you like a thinner sauce, add a little chicken broth. If you like a thicker sauce, cook without a lid.

How often do you feel depressed without apparent reason? Do you use junk food to comfort yourself when you feel blue? Would you consider trying antioxidant foods as a mood lifter? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Let's Have a Conversation!