Diagnoses of depression can be found in history as far back as Ancient Greece.
On top of a long history, depression is also considered one of the most common mental illnesses today. Depression is suggested to be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological. Depression impacts one’s ability to perform daily activities. Persons afflicted with depression report changes with work performance, school performance, or within their personal lives. There are also changes that tamper with normal sleeping or eating habits. Recent research indicates that a proper diet goes a long way in contributing towards the prevention and reduction of depression symptoms. The key to understanding what constitutes a proper diet lies within knowing the nutrients the brain needs for optimal function.
Our brains use more energy than any of our organs and this means brain function relies on a steady stream of fuel. Our bodies rely on carbohydrates for most of this fuel. Carbohydrates are made up of fiber, starch, and sugar. Foods that are composed mostly or entirely of sugar are considered simple carbohydrates. Foods with more fiber and starch are complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are a better choice, as they contain more nutrients and release sugar in a slowly, preventing spikes in the blood sugar. Some examples include apples, broccoli, quinoa, kidney beans, and whole grain pasta.
Vitamins and Minerals
Sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals play a huge part in your brain function. Various B-vitamins that impact the brain’s energy production and nucleotide synthesis and repair. In particular, the B vitamin folate regulates depression symptoms. Folates are found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that prevents oxidation in other molecules. Antioxidants assists in preventing or delaying cell damage. Furthermore, vitamin C reduces the psychological effects of stress. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes. Magnesium protects the brain from neurotoxins. It has been noted that a deficiency in magnesium causes depression and other behavioral complaints. Magnesium can be found in dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, and whole grains.
Amino acids help along the brain’s production of neurotransmitters. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is often considered a natural mood regulator. It produces feelings of contentment and can curb cravings. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of motivation. Amino acids come from protein and the best sources include eggs, soybeans, low-fat dairy, and lean meats such as turkey or chicken.
A large portion of the brain is made up of fat, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are called polyunsaturated fatty acids and cannot be created by our bodies, so must be obtained from our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil, as well as other seafood, and grass-fed animal meat. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils. A good ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids contribute to formation of synapses and maintenance of neurons.
Consuming the right balance of nutrients does not need to be complicated. Putting together balanced, healthy, and lean meals requires being mindful of the type of foods that give the largest variety of nutrients or are the most nutritionally dense. The incorporation of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats go a long way towards improving mental health. These healthy foods give the right type of energy, stabilize moods, and build upon our brain’s structure. Conversely, foods that are high in sugar, high in fat, are highly-processed or refined are poor in nutrients and should be avoided or replaced with better options. These unhealthy foods dampen moods and weaken our physical health, thereby exacerbating depression symptoms. Typically, depression treatment entails a combination of medication and psychotherapy, but our diet has a profound impact as well and should be integrated in depression treatment.