Research has found that eating a healthy diet and consuming essential nutrients decreases the risk of depression, an extremely common mental illness that is characterized by sad and negative thoughts and behaviors.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization, 300 million globally suffer from the condition.
For some, counseling and therapy can be of great help. Others find solace in holistic practices such meditation and massage. Still, others find relief through medication-assisted therapy, such as the use of antidepressants. Many find that finding a good balance of such approaches is most effective, and that usually includes a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep.
There is no one approach or magic bullet to treating depression, but there is no question that depression and diet are indelibly linked. The food and nutrition that a person receives may play critical a factor in how well symptoms are managed, and some research has found that even a change in diet alone may result in a marked improvement in mood.
A recent study published in the online journal BMC Medicine revealed that a sample of people with moderate to severe symptoms of depression experienced an improvement in mood and relief of symptoms after eating a healthier diet.
In the study, subjects engaged in a diet program for three months, which also included individual counseling with a dietitian. The diet focused on the consumption of whole foods and discouraged the consumption of refined, sugary, and fried food.
Compared to others, persons on this diet exhibited a reduction in depression symptoms, and nearly one-third experienced remission and were thus no longer depressed. A definite relationship between depression and diet was therefore suggested by these findings.
Foods and Nutrients That Help To Relieve Depression Symptoms
Antioxidants are famous for fighting free radicals, which are the damaged molecules can build up in body cells and result in inflammation and premature aging. The brain may be more vulnerable to free radical damage than other areas, and foods rich in antioxidants are thought to reduce and reverse the damage incurred by free radicals.
Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods, and include vitamins A, C, and E. Dark juices such as cranberry and pomegranate and high in antioxidants.
B vitamins can also play a key role in depression and other mental health disorders – particularly vitamin B12 and B9 (folate.)
Helpful B vitamins can be found in meat, eggs, poultry, fish and seafood, milk and other dairy products, dark leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and more.
Omega-3 fats are found in significant amounts in seeds and nuts, such as flaxseed. In addition to improving mood, these fats can also improve cognitive function. Other sources include fish such as tuna and salmon.
Consumption of high-quality protein is critical, and some types of protein may help with depression, specifically tryptophan which is found in tuna and turkey. Tryptophan is required for the formation of serotonin, a chemical essential for mood and feelings of well-being.
Low levels of the mineral selenium have been associated with a poor mood in humans. Besides supplements, good sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, whole grains, liver, and seafood.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several mood disorders. Fortunately, it is easily obtainable through sunlight exposure and over-the-counter supplements. It can also be found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.
People with clinical depression sometimes suffer from a lack of zinc, and also, and some experts believe that consuming zinc supplements may improve the effectiveness of some antidepressants. Zinc can be taken as an OTC supplement and is also found in beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Turmeric is a great way to combat stress and inflammation. Antioxidants like curcumin scavenge free radicals that create inflammation. By reducing oxidative stress, they can also reduce inflammation.
Here are 10 Health Benefits and Uses for Turmeric Curcumin Supplements.
Avoid THESE Foods
Many foods and drinks should be avoided to ease symptoms of depression while consuming good food and nutrients. The key to managing depression and diet is also knowing what NOT to consume.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Some people have anxiety in addiction to depression, and the use of caffeine can trigger symptoms. It also can reduce sleep quality and therefore result in fatigue and irritability during the day. There is also a “crash” associated with coming down from caffeine that can exacerbate depression symptoms.
Alcohol in small amounts may be helpful to relax, but even in moderate amounts, especially late in the day can affect sleep.
Heavy alcohol use, however, increases the risk of anxiety and depressive episodes. A habit that becomes an addiction can further depression symptoms and lead to a cycle of self-medication.
Refined And Processed Foods And Oils
Foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients may factor into depression, especially if they are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Like caffeine this burst in energy can quickly result in a crash, making the person feel tired and moody
Oils that are highly processed include corn and safflower and are high in omega-6 fats. Consuming too much omega-6 can result in an imbalance that contributes to inflammation and therefore, depression.
Diet plays an essential role in both the mental and physical health of humans, and lacking certain nutrients and consuming negative substances can add to symptoms of depression. Conversely, consuming the right foods and nutrients can lead to a reduction in symptoms, and is encouraged as an integral part of comprehensive treatment. Evidence has shown that depression and diet are linked.