Beat Depression With Food
Food can have a dramatic impact on mental health, with several studies now linking depression to poor diet and nutritional deficiencies. Some foods can even cause symptoms related to depression and anxiety, such as mood swings, brain fog, negative thoughts, and anger. Research suggests that, for some people, diet is the key to beating depression.
Carbohydrates provide glucose to the brain, which is needed for the brain to function correctly. Without a steady supply of glucose, it becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate, to think clearly and to remember things. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are broken down too quickly by the body, which leads to spikes in blood sugar levels. These spikes can cause irritability, fatigue and even physical health problems. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, are broken down slowly, which helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels and provides a constant supply of glucose to the brain.
Protein contains amino acids, which are essential parts of the brain chemicals needed to regulate mood, emotions, and thoughts. Protein is also necessary to help control blood sugar levels. High-quality protein, such as fish, lean meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products and legumes, is needed for the brain to function properly. Vegetarians, vegans, and people on restrictive diets often eat too little protein, leading to fatigue, low mood and mental health problems.
Fruit and Vegetables
A diet low in fruit and vegetables can lead to nutritional deficiencies and mental health problems. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and other essential nutrients. Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot provide the same benefits as a balanced diet, as some nutrients can only come from fruit and vegetables. Nutritional therapists advise eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and choosing a wide range of different types and colors.
Low-fat diets have been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, sunflower oil, and some animal foods, are essential for brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish, walnuts and some seeds, have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of depression and improve cognitive function. Research has even suggested that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. While some fats are considered healthy and essential for brain function, other fats can contribute towards physical and mental health problems. Trans fats, often found in processed food such as cakes, biscuits, and pies, have been linked to several diseases, including cancer.
Junk food and processed food often contain additives and preservatives, some of which link to depression and mental health problems. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is regularly added to savory foods and takeout meals to enhance the taste. However, monosodium glutamate has been associated with depression, anxiety, and some physical health problems. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, often found in diet drinks, sugar-free candy, and low-calorie products, also link to depression, headaches and other health problems in some people. Junk food and processed foods can also cause spikes in blood sugar and are usually lacking in nutrients.
Eating a balanced diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates, high-quality protein, healthy fats and a wide range of fruit and vegetables can help to protect against many mental and physical health problems. Cutting down on junk food, processed foods, trans fats and simple carbohydrates has also been shown to help treat and prevent depression.
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