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IS YOUR DIET CONTRIBUTING TO YOUR DEPRESSION?

The interrelationship between depression and diet has been a topic of debate among researchers for quite some time now. However, some recent research backs the idea that specific foods are connected to depression. While some can increase the risk of an individual suffering from depression, others can lower the risk of being diagnosed with depression. According to Eva Selhub, MD, a mind-body medicine specialist has stated that a dietary pattern that is characterized by a regular low intake of animal foods and a high intake of low-fat dairy, olive oil, fish, whole grain, vegetables, and fruits is associated with minimal risk of depression. Whereas, a dietary pattern that is characterized but a regular high intake of processed or/and red meat, huge-fat gravy, potatoes, butter, high-fat dairy products, sweets, refined grains, and insufficient intakes of vegetables and fruits is associated with a higher risk of depression. 

Whole foods are naturally occurring foods that are packed with all of their nutrients and devoid of any additives. Whereas, processed foods are filled with additives, and in most cases lose their nutritional value due to being processed or altered. Carolun Dean, MD, a medical director at the Nutritional Magnesium Association states that "We know that nutrients such as magnesium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin B6 and B 12 help create neurotransmitters, and we are also learning that a deficiency in these nutrients can lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain." She further adds, "When researchers came in with the term 'brain chemical imbalance' to explain depression, the next step should have been to supply the brain with nutrients. However, chemicals were prescribed instead."  The loss of vital nutrients in processed foods is a major factor behind the onset of depression. 

Various recent studies have contributed to the knowledge of how there are multiple ways through which depression is influenced by nutrition. These studies propose that an inadequate diet is dangerous for both physical and mental health. 

a. The Archives of General Psychiatry published a study that found that individuals who are overweight increase their risk of suffering from depression. A diet that is high in fat, sugar, foods, increases the chances of obesity. 

b. The British Journal of Nutrition, published a small study that found that people who consume fat in lower quantities, have a 25% increased risk of becoming depressed compared to those who consume healthy dietary fats like Omega-3, found in walnuts, flaxseed, and fishes like tuna and salmon. 

c. The British Journal of Psychiatry published another study that compared a diet that is rich in fish, fruits, and vegetables with one that is heavily loaded with processed grains, processed meats, fried foods, and sweetened desserts. After five years of observation, the researchers have come to the conclusion that eating processed foods daily increases the chances of depression, whereas eating whole foods decreases the chances of depression. 


Fight Depression With Food

Irrespective of dietary preferences, people can opt from a wide range of food options that provide mood-boosting benefits. That does not mean that one necessarily needs to overhaul their eating habits and only consume particular foods, but maintaining a healthy diet and being conscious of what to eat and what not to, can help in better management of the symptoms of depression. 


1. Vegetables

Lower intake of folate is a major factor that causes depression. Fiber, folate, and other essential nutrients can be found in abundance in vegetables, specifically the leafy darker greens, that greatly help to stabilize and improve the mood. They are a good source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) that is extremely good for health. Some excellent choices of vegetables include watercress, kale, spinach, and sprouts. 


2. Probiotics

Food such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, tofu, miso, tempeh, and yogurt contain probiotics. It is a microorganism that lives inside the gut and helps in reducing inflammation in the body, producing feel-good neurotransmitters, as well as affecting the stress response, hence playing a major role in the regulation and maintenance of mood. For example, people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome can develop anxiety and depression. 


3. Poultry

Lean protein can be found in both turkey and chicken that can help in stabilizing blood sugar levels, and keeping the mood well-balanced throughout the day. Chicken and turkey breasts also provide great amounts of tryptophan. This is beneficial as it helps in producing serotonin, which assists in maintaining a balanced mood and healthy sleep. Only three ounces of roasted chicken or turkey breast can offer nearly 123% of DRA of tryptophan. 


4. Seeds

Chia seeds and flaxseeds contain Omega-3 fats in abundance. One tablespoon of both chia seeds and flaxseeds provide approximately 61% and 39% of RDA of Omega-3 fats respectively. Hence, they are great for improving both mood and diet. 
In addition to that, squash and pumpkin seeds are also great for increasing tryptophan content in the body. They can provide nearly 58% of RDA of tryptophan that in turn helps in producing serotonin, bringing a feel-good feeling to individuals. 


5. Beans

They are rich in both fiber and protein that help to maintain consistent and stable blood sugar levels. Apart from that, they also assist to decrease the blood sugar dips and spikes that can affect the mood greatly. Beans are excellent sources of folate, a B-vitamin, that helps in maintaining mood, metabolizing protein, producing, RNA, DNA, and blood cells. Hence, keeping the body healthy and preventing the risk of an individual suffering from anxiety and depression. 


The foods that one consumes interacts with their body that greatly impacts the ability of the body to function properly. Even though there is no proven diet that can alleviate depression, there are multiple nutrient-rich foods that greatly help to keep the brain healthy. Making better and healthier food choices can effectively help in the betterment of the overall health while positively influencing the mental and emotional well-being of a person. 

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