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Depression, as a medical condition, can be life altering. Most treatments and counselling target lessening the symptoms of depression. It is believed that certain lifestyle remedies such as a healthy, wholesome diet with requisite nutrients can not only augment these treatments but also secure the person’s overall well-being.
Various studies have been conducted to find out the link between moderate to severe depression and a person’s dietary habits and their conclusions have been near unanimous – the dietary habits of an individual contribute greatly to depression. It is believed that an improved diet focused on fresh and whole foods that have a high nutrient content can help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
One such nutrient that must be included in one’s diet is selenium, which is present in a variety of foods such as whole grains, garlic, Brazil nuts, shellfish, organ meats such as liver, and selenium enriched foods.
A 2013 meta-analysis conducted in the United States observes that the intake of Vitamin D (besides getting it through sun exposure) can help improve the symptoms of depression. This can be obtained through oily fish, beef liver, egg, and fortified dairy products.
Experts opine that protein rich foods boost alertness in an individual and help increase the serotonin levels in one’s body. Consuming proteins in the form of beans, peas, soy, yogurt, low fat cheese, poultry, lean beef, and fish, several times a day in small portions can significantly boost one’s energy levels.
Antioxidants such as Vitamins A (beta carotene), C and E are also said to effectively attack depressive symptoms. Consumption of fresh berries, soy, kidney beans, tomatoes, barley, spinach, broccoli etc., rich in these antioxidants, can help reduce stress related symptoms of depression.
The nervous system can be protected and maintained with the help of sources rich in Vitamin B12 and B9 (folic acid) with the help of eggs, meat, poultry, fish, dark leafy vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, whole grains and dairy products.
The consumption of zinc rich foods such as whole grains, oysters, beans and pumpkin seeds, help boost immune systems and influence depression. Additionally, zinc supplementation will help antidepressants function more effectively within the body.
There has been a definitive correlation identified with regard to a healthy gut microbiota and symptoms and risks of depression. Therefore, it is advisable to consume foods such as yogurt and kefir, rich in these probiotics to help alleviate the condition. In fact, it is said that traditional fermented foods such as idlis, dosas and dhoklas are excellent sources of these probiotics.
It is also believed that ‘smart’ carbohydrates (namely complex carbohydrates such as whole grains) have a calming effect on one’s mind and must be consumed in predetermined quantities.
It cannot be stressed enough that obesity raises the risks of depression and weight management is indispensable. It is often advised by experts that the DASH Diet i.e. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension can be followed in order to aid weight loss, reduce blood pressure and improve overall health of the person.
Having identified certain foods that must be taken, there are few other foods that one must avoid at all costs in order to avoid aggravating the condition. Alcohol tops this list, for it aggravates and sometimes even triggers new bouts of anxiety and depression. Fast food, processed food high in sugar content and junk food, high in calories but low on nutrients, are an absolute no-no. They might offer an instantaneous boost but a rapid low can follow.
Processed oils or refined, saturated fat can impair brain function and worsen symptoms of depression. Trans Fats, fats in red and processed meats, safflower and corn oil are unhealthy and contribute to increased bouts of depression.
It is popularly believed that consuming caffeine is not good for patients of depression. However, consumption of the same in moderate amounts may help reduce one’s anxiety and boost their mood. High caffeine drinks such as energy drinks must be avoided though and it must not be consumed after midday.
This article would be incomplete is there was no mention of the Mediterranean diet and the impact that that has on depression. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and bulgur), beans, nuts, olive oil, legumes (lentils, dried peas and beans), herbs and spices forms the base of every meal in this kind of diet. One must consume fish, poultry and eggs at least twice a week and eat moderate portions of cheese and yogurt daily. Red meat must be eaten sparingly and in limited portions. Drink plenty of water each day and the only alcoholic drink that can be consumed is wine in moderation.
The gist of this article is that unprocessed fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, rich in nutrients are preferred over processed, fatty, refined sugary food for those who suffer from anxiety and depression. While the latter may seem to help you cope with the depressive bouts, it is responsible for making things worse. Stick to the basics and maintain a balanced healthy diet to elevate your mood, energy level and well-being.
For more information you can always talk to a mental health expert on DocsApp.