There's plenty of evidence that certain dietary habits can increase your susceptibility to depression and exacerbate your symptoms. On the other hand, certain eating habits appear to have a protective affect on one's mental health and well-being.
To promote optimal mental health and keep depression at bay, what should you be eating more of? And what are the foods you should be limiting in your diet?
Whole foods linked to lower risk of depression.
Not surprisingly, a diet rich in healthy, whole foods is linked to a lower risk of future depression. "Whole" foods are foods that are very close to their natural state, with minimal or no processing. When it comes to fighting off depression, you'll benefit from making fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish a regular part of your diet. These foods are high in nutritional value, so they support all the underlying biochemical processes in your body needed to maintain physical health, mental well-being, and cognitive function.
Because these foods are largely unaltered, they typically don't have a slew of "extra" ingredients added to them that can harm your health.
What are the foods most likely to increase your risk for depression? Processed foods, such as: fast-food, pre-prepared meals, commercial bakery goods, packaged snacks, and sweets. In contrast to whole foods, processed foods have undergone significant alteration from their original state, with plenty of extra ingredients added in. If you look at the ingredients list on a bag of potato chips, for example, you'll see that it contains far more than just potatoes.
Immediate benefit from limiting processed foods.
An immediate benefit from reducing your intake of processed foods is that you'll experience fewer out-of-control blood sugar fluctuations and energy crashes, both of which can lead to mood swings. By keeping your blood sugar and energy levels more stable, you'll be keeping your mood more stable as well.
Another concern around processed foods is that they tend to contain ingredients that can set off inflammation within the body. Chronic inflammation throughout the body is associated with a variety of health ailments; and inflammation of the tissues or blood vessels in the brain can affect your mood. Some individuals are especially sensitive in this regard, and they notice the effects fairly quickly when they consume more processed food than usual.
Does this mean you need to consume a perfect diet of healthy, whole foods all the time, while never touching processed foods? For the vast majority of people, this is not realistic. Monitoring every bite, every day, can feel restrictive and burdensome. Instead of trying to force yourself to adhere to a rigid eating plan that you aren't likely to stick with, focus on making manageable shifts you know you can sustain in the long term.
Rather than think of the steps you're taking as a sacrifice, celebrate the fact that you're being pro-active in managing your mental health and well-being!
Challem, J. (2010). The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Image Credit: Premswaroop Kasukurthi from Pixabay
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