Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the world, affecting people, regardless of their culture, occupation or age. It is one of the leading causes of chronic disease, exacerbating other existent medical conditions. While medication is often recommended to those who are suffering from depression, it seems that dietary changes are highly likely to improve a person’s mood and the overall quality of life. A healthy diet, based on whole foods and especially fresh fruits & vegetables can actually eliminate the need for medication.
Plant foods, essential weapons against depression & mood disorders
According to an article presented by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, eating whole foods contributes to a reduction in mood swings and other depression symptoms (especially in comparison to a diet that is mostly based on refined or processed foods). Moreover, the article highlights the fact that vegetarians, thanks to their diet being rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, enjoy a more positive mood, as opposed to those who are accustomed to eating meat.
In short, fruits and vegetables protect the brain against mental health problems and mood changes, while animal products have the opposite effect. Depression is often associated with mood swings, being caused by neurotransmitter imbalance and inflammation at the level of the brain. By consuming more plant foods, you will deliver a good dose of antioxidants and phytochemicals to the brain; these will restore the neurotransmitter balance and improve your mood. For example, you should consume more foods that are rich in quercetin (natural mood enhancer), such as onions, apples, kale, grapes and berries.
The same article draws attention to the importance of eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include fatty fish such as salmon and also plant sources such as walnuts, leafy greens, flax seeds and chia seeds.
The symptoms of depression can be improved by consuming more foods that are rich in tryptophan. This is used by the brain to produce serotonin, one of the happiness hormones (also a positive mood enhancer). The best sources of tryptophan are peas, leafy greens, broccoli, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, soybeans and mushrooms.
Whole foods – feeding the brain the right way
According to an informative brochure developed by the Mental Health Foundation, the brain is highly sensitive to the foods we are eating. Unfortunately, we have modified our food so much, that our brains have begun to suffer from these alterations. The authors of the brochure recommend an increased intake of complex carbs and whole foods that are rich in selenium, folic acid, tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids, in order to improve one’s mood.
Positive mood determined by the food we eat
The chemical composition of the brain is affected by the foods we eat, hence the mood changes. According to a study undertaken by Croatian researchers, both fiber-rich foods and complex carbs can improve the mood. Recommended sources include spinach, celery, eggplant, lettuce and turnip greens. The authors recommended fatty fish, seeds and nuts as sources of omega-3 fatty acids and protein-rich foods, such as eggs, dairy and legumes, for tryptophan. Last, but not least, they draw attention to chocolate; dark chocolate, with a high cocoa content (70%) can improve the mood and other depression symptoms.
Foods to Avoid
Just like the foods mentioned above can have a positive impact on your mood, there are foods that have been proven to cause anxiety and even depression. Read about the 4 foods that can make you depressed here: Are These Foods Making You DEPRESSED?