Thanks to exposure and education of modern times, mental health issues are not taboos anymore. We talk about them and don’t shy away from taking medical help if needed. Apart from therapies and medications, we always talk about lifestyle measures for good mental health but diet and mental health are not often discussed as we relate food to our body and not to our mind, heart, and emotions. However, a good and nutritive diet is as important for the emotional and cognitive well being. An unhealthy lifestyle and poor nutrition can actually lead to depression and anxiety.
Can poor nutrition cause depression?
Depression and diet are related. Multiple studies have reported that people who consume more junk food, tend to report more cases of the blues. And, those who consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish report lower cases of depression. Since diet does play an essential role in causing depression, one should include a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, foods rich in Omega-3 to combat the blues.
Don't skip meals. You know when you are hungry, your blood sugar falls. Your brain uses the maximum amount of blood sugar than any other part of the body. A balanced meal will prevent low blood sugar and thus keep you protected. Although good nutrition is not a substitute for the treatment of depression. It is definitely going to help you if you back it up with a healthy and balanced diet.
Not many of us are aware of nutritional psychiatry, the field of medicine which is based on the fact that our diet affects every aspect of our health, but especially our mental health. Several recent research supports the link between depression, specifically, and the food that we eat.
Studies have revealed that high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy, antioxidants and low intake of animal foods lowers the risk of depression. On the other hand, high consumption of red and processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intake of fruits and vegetables puts you at an increased risk of depression.
Minerals in food that will help the right balance:
- Selenium - This might help your mood, reduce anxiety and make depression more manageable.
- Vitamin D - Although, most people obtain this vitamin from their exposure to the sun, consuming this from dietary supplements can prove to be beneficial too.
- Omega-3 fatty acids - They enhance the brain function, preserves the myelin sheath and protect the nerve cells. They reduce the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases.
- Vitamin B - This protects and maintains the nervous system and reduces the risk and symptoms of mood disorders.
- Probiotics: Yogurt and kefir keep your gut feeling good, which obviously resonates with your entire body
- Protein: 'Serotonin' which is the feel-good hormone is created by a protein called tryptophan. Eating foods that may boost the serotonin level prove beneficial.
Poor diet or depression: Which One Is The Cause And Which One Is The Result
The common question that comes to everyone’s mind is that whether depression is the cause of poor nutrition as a depressed person tends to either overeat junk food or ignore his diet completely or the case is actually vice versa. What comes first?
Researchers found that a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet as an example) was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms. Diet for good mental and emotional health should include:
- Lots of plants, fruits, and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Seeds and nuts
- Lean proteins like fish and yogurt.
- Foods You Should Ignore:
- Things made with added sugars or flours like bread and pasta
- Animal fats and butter
- Processed meats
You can eat them in moderation though! So eat healthily, stay healthy.