One of the questions our health professionals are asked regularly is whether there are any natural ways to help relieve the symptoms of depression.  There are a range of lifestyle modifications we advocate to help achieve good mental and physical health and a healthy diet is considered one of the most beneficial. Good nutrition can be used as an aid in treating depression in conjunction with other suitable lifestyle changes and medical treatments. In this article we will briefly explore nutrition and the role it plays in mental health.

What foods should you eat more of?

There are endless nutrients, vitamins and minerals in food which are required to carry out complex interactions in the body.  A nutrient-rich diet to help both the brain and body function properly would include a range of wholefoods such as:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Lean meats – Lean chicken beef turkey
  • Fish & oily fish
  • Milk / Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Wholegrains
  • Plenty of fresh water

Some examples of the brain-benefitting nutrients found in a wholefoods diet include zinc, magnesium, a number of vital B Vitamins, essential fatty acids and amino acids.

What foods should you avoid?

Introducing a wholefoods diet should result in an improvement in general wellness, however equally as important is the reduction of foods that can negatively impact health.

Studies have shown that eating fast food, commercial bakery products and food high in refined sugar can interfere with the chemistry of the brain.  These foods are also linked to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

These foods should be avoided:

  • Refined, processed high sugar foods and drinks
  • Transfats
  • Fast food
  • Excessive alcohol

Managing food intake to optimise mental health

Unfortunately modern eating habits and ‘fast food’ means foods are higher in sugar and salt and are eaten in a rushed or stressed manner. Meals should be a relaxed affair, keeping these considerations in mind:

  • Keep blood sugar balanced by eating regularly throughout the day (Low blood sugar leads to low mood, irritability, fatigue)
  • Avoid added sugar. Sugar highs result in a surge of energy and then a tired and low feeling
  • Watch caffeine intake – caffeine can increase anxiety, increase blood sugar and cause sleep problems and depressive symptoms in certain individuals.

Think – what is good for the body is good for the mind.

What we do

Treating patients with depression is one of our key services at Robina Town and Easy T Medical Centres.  Dietary changes can be one useful approach to relieve depression when used in combination with other lifestyle changes and treatments such as medication and therapy.  While there’s no specific diet that is proven to prevent or treat depression, eating a nutritionally balanced diet has the potential to help achieve better mental health.  The best way forward is to stick to a healthy dietary pattern to ensure optimal nutritional balance.   If you would like to discuss your mental health please see your GP who can provide a referral to see one of our psychologists. If you would like help constructing a diet with a view to improving your mental health, you may benefit from a session with our in-house dietician.

References:

Inflammatory dietary pattern linked to depression among women

https://www.mja.com.au/open/2012/1/4/depression-diet-and-exercise