A number of brain-boosting, depression-fighting compounds are found in meat and animal products, which makes it difficult for vegetarians who suffer from mental/neurological health issues to get what they need to feel great and remain committed to their preferred diet. Below you’ll find three depression-fighting compounds that are typically found in meat and how to get it into your system, guilt-free.
Essential Item #1: Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Numerous studies have found Omega 3’s to be essential in the functioning of the human brain and body. These fatty chains lower cholesterol, decrease inflammation, and help alleviate all sorts of ailments including arthritis and asthma. They are essential to fighting the debilitating effects of neurological diseases such as parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and alzheimer’s as well as fighting the good fight against cancers and tumors. They are also a key weapon in the fight against depression.
For a vegetarian, getting enough fatty acids can be tricky as the primary source of EFA’s are in wild fish. Most websites will tell you that flaxseed is the best way to go. Unfortunately, flaxseed is difficult to digest, so unless you grind your seeds before consumption, you’ll likely pass them straight through before the Omega 3’s get absorbed.
We Recommend: Microalgae
The only vegan sources of long-chain fatty acids are plants from the sea — notably sea vegetables like seaweed and microalgae. Sea vegetables contain less fat than most land vegetables and provide a significant source of meat-free Omega 3’s.
Essential Item #2: Probiotics
If you read our blog regularly, you know that your gut has a large role to play in your mental health. In fact, research suggests 80-90% of serotonin—the neurotransmitter that gets pumped up when you take Prozac—is manufactured within the stomach. Keeping your gut healthy is a fantastic step toward feeling great so much so that psychologists all over the world are prescribing their patients a probiotic when they come in for therapy.
Fortunately, building good gut bacteria without meat is pretty easy. Many stores sell vegan yogurt, which afford the same probiotic benefits as regular yogurt but uses coconut milk as a base. Also, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are a great source of good gut bacteria.
We Recommend: A Vegan Probiotic
The easiest way to ensure your digestion is up to par is to take a supplement. Not all probiotics are created equal, so be sure to check the labels. As Labdoor indicates, you want to find one that offers billions of CFU’s, which is the measure of actual bacteria that you put into your body when you supplement.
Essential Item #3: Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 helps keep your energy up by supporting the transportation of oxygen throughout the whole body. Furthermore, it activates several processes that keep your nervous system functioning within your brain and along your spinal cord, reducing your risk of depression. In fact, a study mentioned in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that nearly 30% of all women over the age of 65 were deficient in B-12, suggesting that a quarter of all cases of depression could be solved by Vitamin B-12 supplementation.
We Recommend: Vitamin B-12 Fortified Foods
Unfortunately, B-12 is only available in animal products including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, so the only way to get this essential ingredient is through cereals or other commercially available foods that have been fortified with the vitamin.
See, the vitamin is produced by microorganisms, so when you opt to consume B-12 fortified foods, you are getting an essential nutrient without participating in the terrible, terrible world that is our animal farming industry.
There are tons of other things you can do to support your mental health, but these three are especially tricky for the depressed vegetarian as they aren’t immediately available in vegetarian diets.