With Jon Johnson
Depression is a mental health disorder. Specifically, it is a mood disorder characterized by persistently low mood in which there is a feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
Depression is a persistent problem, not a passing one – the average length of a depressive episode is 6-8 months.
Depression is different from the fluctuations in mood that we all experience as a part of a normal and healthy life. Temporary emotional responses to the challenges of everyday life do not constitute depression.
Most people with depression seek natural treatments for their symptoms, in one form or another. While there is no specific diet to treat depression, what a person consumes may play a role in managing its symptoms.
What’s the link between diet and depression?
Links between diet and depression were misunderstood until recently. Many factors contribute to depression symptoms, and there are dietary considerations for each of them.
A recent study posted to BMC Medicine demonstrated that a group of people with moderate to severe depression improved their mood and signs of depression by eating a more healthful diet.
The study was the first to prove that diet alone could reduce depression symptoms. The dieters followed a specific program for 12 weeks that included one-on-one counseling with a dietitian. The treatment diet encouraged eating whole foods while discouraging things such as refined foods, sweets, and fried food. Dieters showed greatly reduced symptoms when compared to other groups.
Important foods and nutrients for depression
The following foods and nutrients may play a role in reducing the symptoms of depression.
Selenium can be a part of reducing symptoms of depression in many people. Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods.
Selenium can be found in supplement form or a variety of foods, including whole grains, Brazil nuts, and some seafood. Organ meats, such as liver, are also high in selenium.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with many mood disorders, including depression. It is important to get enough vitamin D to help in the fight against depression.
This vitamin is obtained easily through full body exposure to the sun, and there are also many high-quality supplements on the market that contain vitamin D.
Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
Omega-3 fatty acids
In a study posted to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers observed that populations that do not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids might have higher rates of depressive disorders.
Good sources of omega-3s may include:
- cold water fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel
- flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds
- nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
The quality of these foods can affect the levels of omega-3s they contain.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids may increase the level of healthful fats available to the brain, preserve the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, and keep the brain working at the highest level. In turn, this can reduce the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases occurring.
Antioxidants have become popular as they fight free radicals. Free radicals are damaged molecules that can build up in different cells in the body and cause problems, such as inflammation, premature aging, and cell death.
The brain may be more prone to this type of damage than other areas of the body. As a result, it needs a good way to get rid of these free radicals and avoid problems. Foods rich in antioxidants are believed to help reduce or reverse the damage caused by free radicals.
Everyday antioxidants found in a variety of whole foods include:
vitamin A (beta-carotene)
These nutrients may help reduce stress-related symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
Some B vitamins are also key in mood disorders such as depression. Vitamin B12 and folate, or vitamin B9, have both been linked to a reduced risk of mood disorders.
Sources of B vitamins include:
eggs, meat, poultry, fish,oysters, milk and whole grains
Fortified cereals may also contain vitamins B12 and folate. Other foods that have folate in them include:
dark leafy vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, nuts, beans, whole grains, dairy products, meat and poultry,seafood and eggs
Eating a varied diet is an easy way to ensure there is enough folate in the diet.
Zinc helps the body perceive taste, boosts the immune system, and may also influence depression. Zinc levels may be lower in people with clinical depression, and zinc supplementation may also improve the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Zinc is found in supplements. Foods, including whole grains, oysters, beans, and nuts, are also good sources of zinc.
High-quality proteins are the building blocks of life. Getting adequate protein is essential for everyone, but some forms of protein, in particular, may be more helpful for people with depression.
Foods such as tuna, turkey, and chickpeas have good levels of tryptophan, which is needed to form serotonin. Edible mushrooms are also included in the foods that reduce depression.
Serotonin deficiency was once thought to be a major cause of depression. We now know that the link between serotonin and depression is very complex, but it does seem to influence depression in many people. Including foods rich in tryptophan in a diet may help relieve symptoms.
Just as certain foods and nutrients may be of benefit to people with depression, there are also some that should be avoided. These are Caffeine, Alcohol, refined foods and processed oils.
In conclusion, changing the diet to relieve the symptoms of depression is a promising step in treatment. It should not be seen as the only step needed, however. Working directly with a doctor before changing anything in a treatment plan should always be the priority.