We are what we eat. Food has a great role to play in an individual’s life – the choice of food not only affects the waistline but also his/her psychological health – confirms a growing body of research. Contrary to what many Americans believed, comfort food rarely has anything to do with happiness. Much of the food that people eat consists of processed items like ice crème, cheese, macaroni, chips, etc. According to a recent study, consuming such food types almost on a regular basis could result in poor mental health. The findings only reinforce the point put forth by certain studies that associate eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats with a lower risk of developing depression and suicidal ideation.
In a review (about the correlation between food and mental health) published in the medical journal Lancet, the researchers wrote that though it is difficult to determine the factors leading to mental disorders, many studies are suggesting that nutrition may play an important role in its high rate of prevalence. Diet is as central to psychiatry as it is to endocrinology, cardiology, and gastroenterology, the researchers said.
Another study called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) found that a diet low in saturated sugar and fat is helpful in reducing the risk of depressive disorder later in life. The chances of developing depression over time in those following the DASH diet are lowered by 11 percent. The DASH diet comprises vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free dairy products, etc. The questionnaire, used in the study, regarding the choices of food and symptoms of depression, reported that a Western diet—high in red meats and saturated fats and low in vegetables and fruits—may lead to depression.
How food affects mental health
Opting for diets that is healthy for the body has the potential to improve an individual’s outlook toward the world. Depression is a mental disorder characterized by persistently low mood, inability to enjoy things loved earlier, slipping into constant feelings of despair and dismay and loss of sleep. The food that a person eats affects various body functions. Hence, eating consciously to improve one’s mental faculties and improve mood seems logical.
Proper nutrition is also linked with a good immune system, which, in turn, reduces the risk of developing depression. Dr. Sherry Pagoto, a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Connecticut, said that people feel better when they adopt a healthy lifestyle and lose weight. This elevates their mood and improves their symptoms of depression.
Inflammation and depression
Another recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggested that depression was linked with inflammation in the body. The findings revealed that people with depression had 46 percent higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker of inflammatory disease—in their blood samples.
Diets like DASH or the Mediterranean diet that include olive oil, fish, and vegetables, are anti-inflammatory and thus considered healthy. One should always try to incorporate a healthy diet in one’s daily routine to ward off the symptoms of depression and other psychological problems.
Dealing with depression
Eating healthy may be a good start to beating depression. However, when symptoms are severe, one should approach a clinician at the earliest. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 16.2 million adults had at least one episode of major depressive disorder in 2016. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, seek immediate help from a treatment facility for depression.
Sovereign Health is the leading behavioral health treatment provider in the United States to provide comprehensive evidence-based treatment programs for depression. You may call at our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our trained mental health expert to know more about our depression inpatient treatment centers. Whether it is residential treatment or outpatient programs for depression, help is just a call away.