Nutrition is one of the most overlooked aspects of mental health. Food plays a very important role in it.
Depression affects many people and is a life-changing condition. Medicines and counseling often help relieve symptoms. But have you ever thought that a healthy diet can also boost a person’s wellbeing?
There is no specific diet to treat this condition, but surely are certain foods that can help manage the symptoms.
How Can A Change In Diet Help Come Out Of Depression?
A person’s dietary habits are the major contributors to depression. A study found an improvement in the symptoms of depression of people after nutritional counseling and eating a healthy diet.(1) The focus of the diet was on fresh and whole foods that are high in nutrients.
The symptoms improved enough to achieve remission criteria in 32% of the participants.
Foods to Take
Increasing selenium in diet helps improve mood and reduce anxiety. This helps in making depression more manageable.(2)
Foods rich in selenium are whole grains, Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meat such as the liver.
Good dietary sources of vitamin D are oily fishes, beet liver, fortified dairy products, and eggs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Few studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids help with depressive disorders.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of mood disorders, enhance brain function, and preserve myelin sheath that protects nerve cells.
Cold-water fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, and mackerel, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are the good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants are the compounds that remove free radicals (the waste product of the natural process in the body which can build up). A build-up of free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, this can lead to a number of health problems which include anxiety and depression.
Vitamin A, C, and E contain substances called antioxidants. A study suggested that consuming vitamins provide antioxidants which can give relief from the symptoms of anxiety and depression.(4)
Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants. Also, fresh fruits and vegetables, soy and other plant products reduce stress-related depression symptoms.
Vitamin B12 and B9, maintain and protect the nervous system including brain. It reduces the risk and symptoms of depression.
Sources of vitamin B 12 are eggs, milk, oysters, fish, poultry, meat, and fortified cereals.
Dark leafy greens, nuts, beans, whole grains, dairy products, fruit and fruit juices, eggs, seafood, and meat and poultry.
Folic acid prevents homocysteine production, which is known to restrict the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Zinc helps to perceive taste and also boosts the immune system. Studies suggest low levels of zinc in people with depression.
Zinc also helps antidepressants work more efficiently.
Whole grains, oysters, beef, chicken, pork, beans, nuts, and pumpkin seeds are rich sources of zinc.
Protein aids growth and repair in the body. It also helps in treating depression,
Serotonin, a feel-good hormone is produced in the body with the help of a protein called tryptophan.
Tuna, turkey, chickpeas contain tryptophan. Eating these foods is beneficial as they boost the production of serotonin.
Probiotic foods such as yogurt and kefir boost the level of beneficial gut bacteria.
Healthy gut microbiota help reduce the symptoms of depression.(5)
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods that should be avoided if suffering from depression, as they may aggravate the symptoms.
Alcohol and mental health problems are linked. People often try finding a way out from mental lows by drinking alcohol. It does help but also does aggravate the symptoms.
Consuming alcohol in large amounts can further complicate the condition.
Fast food also known as convenience food is high in calories and low in nutrition.
Those who consume fast food in large amounts are at a higher risk of suffering from depression than those who eat fresh produce.(6)
Processed oils may contain refined and saturated fats which can trigger inflammation and worsen the symptoms of depression.
It is also important to avoid trans fats, fats in red and processed meats, and safflower and corn oil (high in omega-6 fatty acid)
But it is best to consume it in moderation as a high intake would affect a person’s ability to sleep, increase anxiety and stress and lead to depression.
Diet plays a major role in fighting depression. It hastens the healing process and help a person come out of the low feeling.
A treatment surely helps manage the symptoms of depression in people and adopting a healthful diet would be just adding to the healing powers.