The links between diet and depression have been misunderstood until recently. Many factors contribute to the symptoms of depression, and there are dietary considerations for each of them. A recent study showed that a group of people suffering from moderate to severe depression improved their mood by eating a healthier diet.
This study was the first to prove that diet alone can reduce the symptoms of depression. The dieters followed a specific program for 3 months that included one-on-one counseling with a dietitian. This diet encouraged the consumption of whole foods while discouraging things such as fried food, sweets, and redefined foods.
The dieters showed greatly reduced symptoms when compared to other groups. In addition to this, more than 32% of participants experienced remission, so they were no longer considered to be depressed.
Important Foods and Nutrients for Depression
The following foods and nutrients may play an important role in reducing the symptoms of depression.
Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods. It can be found in supplement form or in a variety of foods, such as Brazil nuts, whole grains, some seafood, and organ meats.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with many mood disorders, including depression. Therefore, it’s important that we get enough vitamin D to help in the fight against depression.
This vitamin can be obtained through exposure to the sun and by taking supplements. Food sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, cheese, and mushrooms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In a recent study, researchers observed that populations that don’t consume enough omega-3 fatty acids have higher rates of depressive disorders.
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and almonds.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids may increase the level of healthy fats available to the brain, preserve the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, and keeps the brain working at the highest level. This can reduce the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases.
Antioxidants have become popular because they help fight free radicals. These are damaged molecules that can build up in different cells in the body and cause problems, such as premature aging, inflammation, and cell death.
The brain might be prone to this type of damage more than other areas of the body. Therefore, it needs a good way to eliminate these free radicals and avoid problems. Foods that are rich in antioxidants are believed to help decrease or reverse any damaged caused by free radicals.
Everyday antioxidants found in a variety of whole foods include vitamin A, C, and E.
Some B vitamins are also vital in mood disorders such as depression. Vitamin B12 and folate, have both been linked to a decreased risk of mood disorders.
Sources of B vitamins include eggs, poultry, meat, fish, oysters, milk, and whole grains.
Sources of folate include dark leafy vegetables, nuts, fruit, beans, dairy products, whole grains, seafood, and eggs.
Zinc boosts the immune system, helps the body perceive taste, and may also have an influence on depression. Those with clinical depression are often found to have low levels of zinc in their bodies.
Foods that contain zinc include whole grains, oysters, nuts, and beans.
Getting enough protein is essential for everyone, but some forms of protein might be more helpful for people with depression.
Foods such as turkey, tuna, and chickpeas have good levels of tryptophan, which is needed to form serotonin.
Serotonin deficiency was once believed to be a major cause of depression. However, we now know that the link between depression and serotonin is very complex, but it does seem to influence depression in many people.
Foods to Avoid
Just as particular foods and nutrients may benefit those suffering from depression, there are also some that should be avoided.
For people with depression that is linked to anxiety, it’s important to avoid caffeine as it can make it difficult to sleep and might trigger symptoms of anxiety in many people.
Caffeine also affects the system for hours after it is consumed. It’s best for people with depression to avoid caffeine if possible, or reduce consumption and don’t drink it after noon.
Though drinking alcohol on the odd occasion is seen as an acceptable distraction, it might actually make depression symptoms worse.
Excessive alcohol might increase the risk of panic attacks or depressed episodes. Furthermore, it can also alter a person’s mood and might turn into a habit, which could influence depression symptoms.
High-calorie foods with very few nutrients in them may also influence depression symptoms. Foods that are high in sugar and redefined carbs can promote a crash, as the energy from them is depleted. This can make a person get mood or energy swings.
Highly processed or refined oils, such as corn and safflower oil, are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Having too many omega-6s in your diet can cause an imbalance in the body that might promote inflammation in the brain and influence depression symptoms.