When it comes to mental health and specifically depression, one of the most overlooked aspects is nutrition. What we eat not only plays a significant role in our physical health but our mental and emotional health as well. Until recently, little emphasis has been placed on diet in a counseling setting. Most treatment options for depression have centered around therapy and medication. Now we are seeing a whole new field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry that specifically focuses on the correlation between what we eat and how we feel.

So how does our diet play a role in depression? Studies have shown that individuals who regularly consume refined carbs, sugar, and processed meats have higher rates of depression. This is believed to occur due to inflammation in the body which is caused by heavily processed foods upsetting the bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains allows us to maintain good levels of the nutrients and antioxidants that our bodies need.

Changing our eating habits can be difficult especially when many of us turn to comfort foods (aka junk foods) when we are down. Sugary, familiar foods can give us that quick pick me up but in the long run, they just make us feel guilty and contribute to our bad dietary habits. If you want to focus on diet for depression, the following are some foods that can help:

1. Fish and Nuts: These foods are packed with Omega -3 fats which can help lead to increased serotonin production and improvement of mood.

2. Beans: These are a great source of protein and fiber which help maintain stable and consistent blood sugar levels. By reducing spikes and dips in your blood sugar, you will experience more constant moods.

3. Vegetables: Folate is a major nutrient found in vegetables, especially green leafy ones. Individuals who suffer from depression have been found to have lower levels of folate than those without depression.

4. Single Ingredient Foods: Processed foods are filled with preservatives and lack nutritional value. When your body tries to figure out what to do with these foods it can interrupt its normal function. It is best to give your body foods in their most natural state.

As you can see, there are many foods that reduce anxiety and depression. However, whatever you decide, make sure that you are choosing the best foods you can to allow your body to function optimally. Before making any radical dietary changes, speak with your medical provider. Also remember that in cases of severe depression, pharmacological treatments such as the use of antidepressants or ketamine infusions may still be prescribed.

About the Author

Kimberly Sandberg Aloha Integrative Health
Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Aloha Integrative Health and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve.

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