It’s long been said that healthy food is the body’s medicine but did you know that the same is true for your mind? Scientists agree that your diet plays a vital role in the onset of depression and anxiety. According to the best doctors in Jersey, the treatment options for depression include medication, therapy, and self-care. Self-care includes things such as sleep, physical activity, and diet, the latter of which is just as important as medicines and therapy—sometimes more so.
Diet and Emotional Well-Being
Research supports the fact that there is a link between diet and the risk of depression. In fact, diet is such an important component of mental health that it has inspired an entire field of medicine called the nutritional psychiatry. What it boils down to is that what we eat matters for every aspect of our health, but especially for our mental health. People with moderate to severe depression can improve their mood simply by eating a healthier diet.
What comes first? Poor diet or depression?
It’s an established fact that people who are depressed soothe themselves with unhealthy “comfort” foods. It’s also true that some depressed people eat very little at all. Both approaches are unhealthy, but they beg the question, What comes first, diet or depression? The jury is still out on that question but researchers can say for a fact that a healthy diet is associated with a lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.
For example, one recent study concluded that “a dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods is apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”
A diet aiming to lower depressive symptoms emphasizes whole grains, fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, fish, eggs, olive oil, and meat. It discourages sweets, refined cereals, processed meats, and sugary drinks. A healthy diet primarily consists of:
- Foods low in refined carbohydrates
- Foods low in processed oils
- Plenty of natural fat and cholesterol
- Combinations of animal sources of protein and whole foods.
Your Weight and Lifestyle Matter, Too!
People who are obese are more likely to become depressed. And, people who are depressed are more likely to become obese. This cycle could be the result of changes in the immune system and hormones that come with depression. However, a nutritious diet can help you stay at a healthy weight. If you’re having a hard time, talk with your doctor.
Many people who are depressed also have problems with alcohol or drugs. These can interfere with your mood, sleep, and motivation, and they can also reduce the effectiveness of your depression medications. Drinks and foods that contain caffeine can trigger anxiety and make it difficult to sleep at night so cutting back on caffeine each day may help you get a better night’s sleep.
Our bodies interact with the foods we eat, and the choices we make each day impact our body’s ability to function at its best. Though no specific diet has proven to alleviate depression, there are several nutrient-rich foods that are good for brain health. Be patient and give your body some time to adjust to the changes you are making. Doctors say that making better food choices, getting quality sleep, and exercising regularly can help your overall health, including making a positive impact on your emotional wellness.