Depression may be genetic; however, the solution is not simply pointing a finger at Mom and Dad and giving up. Depression is treatable, and more and more research is proving your mood may be directly linked to your diet. You can’t help your genetic make-up, but you can control what you eat. Some foods may even help to treat depression. Making a point of eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains is part of any healthy eating plan. When a person is in the throes of depression or feeling anxious or under stress, it may be challenging to eat well. Oftentimes depressed individuals are drawn to foods that contain high amounts of sugar, salt, fat or caffeine. While they may taste good or provide a temporary boost in blood sugar, they are not the best choices for people who want to find long-term relief.
A recent study was conducted to evaluate the association of consumption of whole foods (focused on vegetables, fruit and fish and not heavily processed) with depression. The uniqueness of this study is the consideration of whole diets rather than considering specific nutrients. There is evidence of an inter-relation between dietary patterns and depression. Diets rich in fruit, vegetables or fish could be beneficial. The possible mechanisms could be the rich antioxidant content in fruit, the higher levels of folate or the high content of omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids in fish. Processed foods contain more sugars and these have been linked with a higher incidence of depression.
Another recent study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 are associated with a lower likelihood of depression in older adults. Additionally, another study suggests folate combined with vitamin B12 can also help to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. B vitamins are water-soluble; since vitamin B dissolves in water your body does not store the vitamin, instead they are eliminated in urine. This means the best way to get your vitamin B is to eat it in your foods on a regular basis, as supplements simply will not be as effective.
Finally, more and more research gives more credibility to the idea that omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, fish oil supplements, flaxseeds and walnuts) may alleviate some of your depression-related symptoms. The largest double-blind, randomized control trial ever conducted on depression and omega-3 fatty acids suggests the omega works. Indeed, the study found that the men and women who had depression without an anxiety disorder showed a statistically significant benefit from the fish oil supplements compared to patients who received the placebo.
Foods to Add to Your Diet
- Vitamin B12: clams, trout, yogurt, milk, halibut, liver, sardines
- Vitamin B: spinach, garlic, peppers, cauliflower, turnip greens
- Folate: beans, greens, berries, asparagus, corn, oranges
- Fish: mackerel, wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, rainbow trout
The best way to find whole foods in your local grocery store is to shop around the outside of the aisles. Typically most of the whole foods are located on the perimeter of the grocery store, not in the middle, which is usually reserved for over-processed sugary foods.