Are you biting off more than you can chew? Depression is a common mental health problem, affecting one in 10 U.S. adults at some point in their lives. Depression causes difficulties in the workplace, an increased number of absent days and temporary disability. It also can have lasting consequences for health.
Depression was once thought of as a purely psychological phenomenon or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. As scientific knowledge increases, it is now known that depression can be triggered by inflammation, by exposure to infection and even by the foods we eat.
Inflammation is a function of the immune system and is caused by white blood cells and anti-infectious agents rushing to a site of injury or viral or bacterial invasion. Short-term inflammation is good for you, as it’s one of your immune defenses, but chronic inflammation as part of a long-term disease process can cause mental health problems.
The diet and mental health link
Your diet plays a key role in determining how much inflammation is in your body and the likelihood you may suffer from depression. People who eat more fruits and vegetables don’t suffer depression at the same rate as people who eat junk food. This is because fresh, unprocessed food contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants and nutrients that help the consumer avoid depression.
These foods also may also help you beat depression:
- Omega 3 from fish and fish oil, eggs, plant oils like soy, rapeseed and flaxseed oil, leafy green vegetables and nuts and seeds.
- Extra virgin olive oil. The Journal of the American Medical Association said people consuming a Mediterranean diet, including lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and fish had less risk of developing depressive disorders.
- Fresh vegetables. To get the best anti-inflammatory effect, you should aim to have five portions of brightly-colored vegetables every day.
- Fresh fruit. Purchase fruit in season because it tastes better and has more nutrients.
- Whole grains. You need to eat three to five portions of these a day.
- Herbs and spices, such as garlic, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, have anti-inflammatory effects. Garlic has a sulphur compound that is so powerful it helps ease arthritis and reduce the symptoms of depression.
Baptist Health dietitian Lorrie Terry said Vitamin D also is recommended to fight depression.
“Other foods that can help ward off depression include magnesium, vitamin B12, iron and protein,” Terry said. “It is important to note that if you are taking a prescription for depression to not stop taking your medication unless you have first discussed with your physician. It also is important to discuss taking Omega 3 fatty acids with you physician because they can inhibit your ability to clot blood.”
Lastly, don’t forget to drink water if you are feeling down or have been diagnosed with depression. Lack of water can cause dehydration, which can make people irritated and unable to concentrate.
Send us your health and nutrition questions, and our team of dietitians will answer them in an upcoming blog. Check here each month for more tips and answers to your questions.