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How Can Diet Affect Depression? Controlling Mood with Food

written by: Anurag Ghosh • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 1/14/2011

More and more research and scientific studies have revealed that, in some ways, depression and diet are connected. Although there is no particular “diet treatment for depression”, a simple nutritious diet for depression can help to lift your mood.

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    Is There any Link Between Depression and Diet?

    Chronic depression is an incapacitating medical condition where an individual feels sad or has a low self esteem over a long period of time. General symptoms include low energy, loss of interest, insomnia and even obesity. The WHO (World Health Organization) predicts depression to be one of the major causes of global disease by the end of 2020.

    There is no conclusive clinical evidence that diet can cure or prevent mental diseases like depression, but studies have revealed that a nutritious diet can contribute to the overall treatment for depression. More and more research indicates that there is a "diet treatment" for depression.

    Rogers P.J. in Proceedings of a Nutrition Society (2000, p.135-43) has revealed that insufficient consumption of antioxidant vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B12 and folate can contribute to depression. According to Dr. Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of Mental Health Foundation, “nutrition must be an important factor of mental health care. The food we eat affects our thinking and behavior.” Even the Sustain and Mental Health Foundation agrees that dietary changes are one the main reasons behind mental health problems.

    Changes in your diet can bring changes in your brain structure, physiologically as well as chemically. Although you will not find a specific “depression diet” or a particular eating plan from your dietitian or medical expert, a basic nutrition diet for depression can help you in your overall treatment of depression. Here are some eating tips that can help you, if you are recovering from clinical depression:

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    Foods That May Help in the Overall Treatment of Clinical Depression

    While there are foods that can help in the treatment for depression, there's isn't any specific diet treatment for depression. Here are some foods that may help decrease depression amongst patients:

    1. A diet rich in “smart” carbohydrates can result in low anxiety. Eating foods high in carbs raises the serotonin (a brain chemical) levels in the brain, which results in a calming effect and reduces anxiety. Opt for healthy carbs, for example whole grains such as oats, whole rye, whole wheat and legumes, as well as fiber from pears, lentils, beans and apples to reduce anxiety.

    2. Foods rich in selenium are very good for your mental health. Studies by the Texas Tech University have revealed that selenium can be good for improving moderate depression among the elderly. Natural sources of selenium include:

    • Seafood like sardines, crab, oysters, clams as well as salt water fish.

    • Legumes and beans

    • Lean beef and pork, skinless turkey and chicken

    3. Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits. Studies have shown that countries with low intakes of fish are associated with high levels of depression among adults. Oily fishes like salmon, mackerel, tuna and shad are the best sources omega-3 fatty acids.

    4. Folic acid can help to lift your mood. Make sure your diet includes turnip greens and spinach, lentils, peas and citrus foods and juices, all rich sources of folic acid.

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    Foods to Avoid

    1. Avoid highly processed food. Pat Kendel, Colorado State University Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, advocates whole grain breads than highly refined baked breads. Similarly, having brown rice in your diet is better than instant rice, which is more processed.

    2. Avoid caffeinated drinks as it can contribute to mood swings and nervousness and can trigger anxiety. It can also lead to sleepless nights. Make sure you cut down caffeine in the evening to get a good night’s sleep.

    3. Studies have also shown a link between depression and obesity. The Journal of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice has shown that people with clinical depression are likely to become obese or vice versa. Always consult your doctor if you have weight problems and opt for a healthy diet and exercise.

    With research indicating a substantial relationship between diet and depression, it would be better to change eating habits to have a positive impact on your mood. A nutrition diet for depression including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids can have a positive effect to your mental and physical health.

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    References

    http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery

    http://www.depression-help-for-you.com/diet-for-depression.html

    http://www.moodletter.com/FoodforThought.htm

    http://www.dietanddepression.com/

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    Disclaimer

    The information in this article should not be considered medical advice. The information in this article is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your physician before taking any products or following any advice you have read on Brighthub.com. Always consult your doctor before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed.