Nutritional psychiatry: Eat these foods to reduce depression
Results of a recent study show that changing your diet can significantly change your mood. This link between mood and diet falls under an emerging field of study referred to as nutritional psychiatry.
The study, which was published in BMC Medicine, included 67 participants who all suffered moderate to severe depression. Each participant was given seven nutritional counseling sessions over a period of 12 weeks to encourage them to change their diets. These sessions included methods like motivational interviews, goal setting, and mindful eating.
The participants were also given dietary guidelines, which advised them to include the following food groups in their diet (along with their recommended serving sizes):
- Whole grains (five to eight servings per day)
- Vegetables (six servings per day)
- Fruit (three servings per day)
- Legumes (three to four servings per week)
- Low-fat, unsweetened dairy (two to three servings per day)
- Raw and unsalted nuts (one serving per day)
- Fish (at least two servings per week)
- Lean red meats (three to four per week)
- Chicken (two to three per week)
- Eggs (up to six per week)
- Olive Oil (three tablespoons per day)
They were also asked to avoid the following foods:
- sweet refined cereal
- fried food
- fast food
- processed meats
- sugary and alcoholic drinks
Participants who followed the dietary guidelines showed significant improvements in their depression.
“These results indicate that dietary improvement may provide an efficacious and accessible treatment strategy for the management of this highly prevalent mental disorder, the benefits of which could extend to the management of common co-morbidities.” the researchers concluded.
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This study focused on people who did not eat healthily in the beginning, but the results remain relevant to those who already have fairly healthy diets, although the changes in mood would not be as significant.
Existing studies also show that the typical Western diet is linked to a higher risk of depression compared to “traditional” diets, like the Japanese and Mediterranean diets. The Western diet is composed of a lot of processed foods and refined sugars. On the contrary, traditional diets are void of these and mostly contain vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish. This distinction is linked to lowered risk of depression by 25 to 35 percent in people who follow traditional diets. (Related: The Mediterranean diet healthy eating plan.)
A simple change in diet could go a long way for someone with depression. Aside from helping to improve mental health, it will also greatly improve a person’s physical health.
Other treatments for depression
Aside from following a healthier diet, doing the following will help improve a person’s mood:
- Exercise – Regular exercise is not easy to do, especially when the person doesn’t even feel like leaving their bed. However, studies show that people who exercise improve their mood and feel less anxious since endorphins (“feel good” hormones) are released when one engages in a physical activity.
- Socialize – For a lot of depression cases, people start isolating themselves from others, often making the situation worse. Going out and socializingwill actually give them a much-needed boost to their mood since this engages parts of the brain that help improve its condition.
- Meditate – When meditating, the brain achieves sustained focus, which distances the person from all negative thoughts and emotions. Meditation exercises could be as simple as focusing on breathing or repeating phrases.