Diet and depression have a very firm and strong interlink, they both have a direct impact on each other which have been proven by hundreds of various health studies, the thought behind it is very much clear and vivid, a healthy individual with a good and stable lifestyle experience a more enhanced mental health which reduces the risk of depression and anxiety disorder in that person.
We see this premise daily in our lives, as an individual we are an example of our own, I.e. when we eat a bowl of chicken salad and fresh vegetables, we feel more energetic and positive as this food item is healthy and tasty as well but when we eat a basket of oily chicken wings, at first, we feel happy as it satisfies our hunger but after sometimes, we start to feel lazy and uncomfortable as the food was unhealthy. This concludes that diet and depression are very important for each other and if our diets are not nutritional enough, it can cause serious depression and anxiety problems.
Diet and Mental Well-being
People think that depression and mental health have no relation whatsoever, they are two separate things which should be studied individually but their connection is so important that it has influenced an entire field of medicine known as nutritional psychiatry and their specialist are known as mind-body specialists. Several scientific studies have concluded that there is a strong link between what one person eats and the risk of depressive disorder in that person.
One specific health analysis has concluded that:
“A dietary pattern which contains high consumption of refined sugar and grains, processed meat, high-fat content dairy products, starchy vegetables, junk food and low consumption of fruits, healthy vegetables, natural and organic products is associated with an intensive risk of depression disorder”. However,
“A dietary pattern which contains high consumption of green and leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy items, unprocessed foods, organic sugar, antioxidant-rich foods, omega-3 rich fish and low consumption of processed and refined food is associated with no risk of depression disorder”
This study is pointing that diet and mental health are very much correlated, and they have a direct proportion, if your diet is healthy then your mental well-being is also stable but if your diet is unhealthy then your mental well-being is also unstable.
What Foods are Good for Depression?
Vitamin D and Vitamin B:
Vitamin D is an essential body vitamin, which helps to reduce depression symptoms as concluded by the 2019 meta-analysis. The major source of vitamin D is sunlight, however, there are certain dietary foods such as beef liver, eggs, oily fish, dairy products, etc.
Vitamin B is another important body micronutrient, which maintains the nerves system and brain functions vitamin B-12 and vitamin B9 are prominent in reducing mood disorders and anxiety
The sources of vitamin B12 (folic acid) are fish, eggs, meat, milk, etc.
The sources of vitamin B9 (folate) are nuts, beans, leafy and green vegetables, whole grains, seafood, dairy products, etc.
Omega-3 fatty acid:
The omega-3 fatty acid is very crucial for the human body, scientific studies have concluded that the use of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the rate of depression diseases. It reduces the risk of brain damage and mood disorders; fatty acid improves brain function and also maintains the myelin sheath of nerve cells.
The source of omega-3 fatty acids includes fatty fish, nuts flaxseed, chia seed, etc.
Zinc and selenium:
Selenium is a natural mineral that is essential for proper body functioning, some studies have suggested that the addition of selenium in your daily intake, enhances your mood and suppresses anxiety that helps you to reduce depression.
Selenium-containing foods are Brazil nuts, seafood, whole grains, organ meat such as liver, etc.
Zinc is mainly determined as a taste perceiver, but recent studies have shown that it also boosts the immune system and may reduce depression. Zinc-rich foods are meat and chicken, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, etc.
Antioxidants and probiotics:
Antioxidant substances include Vitamin A, C, and E, which exclude the free radicals from the human body, if this removal does not happen, then oxidative stress can happen which usually leads to certain health problems such as anxiety, cancer, etc.
A scientific study of 2012 has proven that consumption of these antioxidant vitamins may reduce anxiety and depression diseases. Fresh and plant-based are a great source of antioxidants.
Fermented foods such yogurt, kefir, etc. contain probiotics that benefit the gut. According to the 2016 meta-analysis study, healthy gut probiotics may reduce depression and anxiety problems.
Protein repair body cells and muscles and help in its development, but it is also very effective to cure depression. The body utilizes serotonin “the feel-good” hormone by the protein called tryptophan, this hormone reduces depression symptoms. Tryptophan protein-rich foods are chickpeas, tuna, and chicken.
Following a Diet Plan Influences your Mental Health
Following certain diet plans such as dash or Mediterranean diet motivates you towards clean and healthy eating and we often heard that we are what we eat. If we consume diets that are beneficial for us, they usually boost our mood and generates positive energy, which lowers the risk of anxiety and depression.
A researcher and Ph.D. student at university college London and a member of the European “Mood food” program, Anika Knuppel says that; “Changing your diet into a nutritional one, can act as a therapy for reducing depression and anxiety issues”
There are specifically two major diets that can influence your mental health very well.
This diet plan emphasizes reducing the sugar intake, it limits the consumption of high-fat dairy products, sugary drinks and snacks, processed food items, and saturated fats, instead, it increases the intake of healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables. It promotes the healthy habit of avoiding refined sugar and other products to have a healthier lifestyle with mental stability.
This diet comprises a high intake of healthy fats, protein-rich foods, and Fruits and vegetable consumption. It focuses on enhancing a well-balanced diet and lifestyle pattern, it includes healthy eating there are no such nutritional foods restricted in this diet plan, the only thing that is excluded from the diet plan is unhealthy foods, this diet plan not only corrects your daily intake but also develops good habits which automatically have positive effects on your mental health.
Foods to Avoid
Following are the foods that you need to avoid to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety:
A cup of caffeine drink gives us the boosting energy that keeps us active throughout the day, but sometimes overdosing, can affect mental stability and results in depression and stress.
The root cause is that coffee activates our mind and speeds up our brain functions which provide us more clarity to do our work but when we consume more than 1 cup of coffee, it can keep the making brain to be harmfully awake and avoid the resting duration and as we know resting is very important to recharge yourself, it is same for the brain as well.
You should consume caffeine;
- With low caffeine content
- Before midday
- In moderation
High intake of sugar can cause anxiety and depression by increasing the insulin levels, such intensive level stimulates the release of certain hormones that suppress your mood and initiate depression in you.
Avoid foods that are high in refined or processed sugar.
Processed products such as processed oil or sugar, can cause inflammation in the body, which can affect brain function resulting in depression.
Avoid the products which contain high omega-6 level, refined sugar, net carbs and trans-fat.
Refined foods such as sugar candies, junk food, soda drinks, etc. are high in fat content and nutrient deficient, many studies have suggested that people who consume unhealthy foods are more likely to have depression than those who consume a healthy diet.
A refined food item such as chocolate or fried chicken can give a quick energy boost but then after some time, you feel very low which affects your brain activity.
It is more preferable to consume a nutrient-rich diet for better mental health.
Weight Management and Lifestyle
Weight management and lifestyle also play crucial roles for a stable and healthy mental status, they initiate our way of life;
We often see a lot that a person who is fit and slim is more active and energetic than a person who is obese and unhealthy, the reason behind it is that the obese individual is mentally stressed as he or she is not comfortable with their body appearance, also dealing with the issue of weight management can make them very irritated and annoyed, which has a direct impact on their mood and energy.
So, have a healthy weight is very important to keep your mental stability and well-being and more overly, when you have a toned and fit body, you feel more confident and stronger, which helps you to deal with your daily life challenges.
Now if we talk about lifestyle, the rule is also the same here it has a direct relation to mental nourishment and health if you have a lifestyle that includes;
- A healthy diet
- The proper sleep pattern of at least 6 to 8 hours.
- Workouts three to four times per week
- Good relationships with your family and friends
- Positively influenced gatherings
- Self-care and development.
- No abusive use of drugs
In short, a balanced and peaceful lifestyle, encourages your mental health, it keeps your food fresh and joyful rather than if you have a lifestyle that is opposite of it, it will result in stressful mood changes and mental breakdown.
Many studies have proven that a person who has a balanced lifestyle and proper weight management is more likely to be happy and mentally healthy than a person with an unbalanced lifestyle and weight management issues.
The combination of diet and depression is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it weird to hear but when we taste it, we feel they were meant to be together, likewise, diet and depression are meant to be correlated as they both are very significant for each other. So, if you want to reduce the risks of depression and anxiety in you, diet is the most healthy and natural way rather than eating a handful of medicines.