How Your Diet Can Combat Depression And Anxiety?

There is not a single food or diet that has been scientifically proven to fight depression. It might be a myth to uphold a certain food as a silver bullet that can immediately wipe off depression and anxiety. However, there is research evidence that eating certain kinds of food can have a positive impact on your health.

Baked potato good in your diet

Some food groups can instantly give you a better mood but overall and lasting treatment of the symptoms of depression and anxiety will partly depend on a healthy diet. The standard medical treatment options for depression usually include therapy, medications, and self-care. Self-care is a broad term that encompasses physical activity, sleep, and diet. It is important to note that self-care is just as important to therapy and medication – and sometimes even more important.

In a contribution made by MD, Monique Tello to the Harvard Health Publishing, she affirms that there is a strong link between food and mood and when counseling her patients she is particularly passionate about lifestyle and diet as lasting measures to good health.

Tello’s approach is not new. Generally, there has been overwhelming evidence that supports the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and diet for the prevention of serious health issues like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, mental health disorders (which includes anxiety and depression), and dementia. 

The Field Of Nutritional Psychiatry

Asparagus with spinach and baked salmon

The importance of diet to mental health in its entirety has been the inspiration for the field of medicine known as Nutritional Psychiatry. Eva Selhub, a specialist in nutritional psychiatry has given a detail of what this field of medicine entails. In summary, it tells the impact of what we eat on our body particularly our mental health.

A good number of past studies have established a relationship between food and mood especially with regards to increasing or decreasing the risk of depression. There are ample food groups identified to have beneficial effects on mental health.One of such studies concluded by saying,

“A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression.”

Source: Science Direct

The Benefits Of Using Food To Enhance Mood

Strawberry with chocolate dip

Nutrition has always been a great addition to traditional therapy especially with maintaining a healthy mental health. The most obvious benefit of nutritional therapy according to medical directors and researchers is that it comes at a lower cost compared to medication.

Nutritional intervention to aid mental help usually focus on decreasing unhealthy habits or increasing healthy ones – both may be required for the best outcome according to Anika Knüppel, a contributor to the European MoodFood program which has its primary interest on using food to prevent depression.

Two types of food have been widely promoted to have a highly beneficial effect on mental health namely the DASH diet (which aims at lowering sugar intake) and the Mediterranean diet (which lays emphasis on consuming more healthy fats).

Research Evidence

For a long time, researchers have been trying to find the link between food and mood. One of such studies in 2011 found out that medical students recorded a 20% reduction in anxiety after their omega-3 fatty acid intake was increased.

Blueberry with baked apple

Spanish researchers in 2016 also recorded that people who were faithful to Mediterranean lifestyle had a 50% lower risk of developing depression compared to those who didn’t. A more recent study carried out by Knüppel in 2017 in line with DASH diet showed that men who consumed 67 or more grams of sugar daily had 23% higher chance of developing anxiety and depression over a period of 5 years.

The Chemistry Of Depression And Anxiety Is Complex

In as much as depression and anxiety are linked to other factors which make it difficult to say with certainty that changing your diet can change your mood. However, it has been discovered that vitamins play an important role in the synthesis of serotonin which is involved in happiness.

Your nutritional lifestyle can directly impact on your health which indirectly impacts on your mood too. For example, unhealthy eating habits and low exercise has been linked to obesity. Studies have shown that obese people have an increased likelihood of becoming depressed.

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