Struggling with depression seems to bring up lots of questions and few answers. Although there isn’t a single reason for or solution to depression, we can use research and experience to help learn ways to manage depression and mitigate symptoms with all different forms of treatment.
Talk therapy and medication are perhaps the two treatment modalities most commonly known to help individuals address depression. However, as clinicians increasingly emphasize a holistic approach to depression treatment, regulating sleep, exercise and diet have shown to be an effective way to decrease depression symptoms and improve overall mental and physical well-being.
In this article we will focus on the relationship between depression and diet- how it impacts the body and mind, how to find balance and what substitutes and depression recipes you should try.
Why your diet matters
A recent meta-analysis published in Psychiatry Research showed a crucial connection between diet and rates of depression. This meta-analysis reviewed 21 studies and all of them found a strong relationship between a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low intake of animal products to be associated with decreased depression. The reverse, an unhealthy diet of processed and fatty foods connecting to increased depression, was also a prevalent finding in all of the studies.
The basics of a balanced diet
The studies mentioned above give us great insight into depression ingredients and what changes we might need to make. In all of the studies the same foods appeared to increase depression. These foods included junk foods, processed foods and foods high in fat. Although an occasional celebratory ice cream is fine, it is important to remember that these foods need to be consumed in careful moderation.
A balanced diet requires some time and energy to adjust to. There are lots of things to learn about and remember, like portion size, calories, food groups and some cooking skills so you can learn to optimize your diet for mental clarity. Have a friend help you get started or meet with a registered dietician if you feel like you can’t do it on your own.
Healthy food substitutes to improve mental health
Changing your diet will be extremely difficult if you try to scrap the whole thing all at once and dive head-first into totally new eating habits. Fad diets, or diets that you quickly adopt and abruptly stop after a certain number of days, claim to be miracle fixes. These diets might offer dramatic results, but they are only short-term solutions. These diets rarely help people keep weight off long-term, because they only teach short-term habits.
Making incremental changes to your lifestyle is the best way to manage depression through your diet. Not only do fad diets fail to teach long-term healthy eating patterns; they can also serve to discourage progress when they are too intense or the weight comes back right after.
In the study previously mentioned, a diet that is high in red or processed meat, refined grains (like white bread or white rice), sugar, high-fat dairy, butter and low intake of veggies and fruit is associated with higher rates of depression. Eliminating or minimizing these foods should take priority when changing your diet, and here are some easy substitutes for each.
Depression ingredient substitutes:
- Red or processed meat: fish or chicken (and try to get lots of protein from beans and nuts).
- Refined grains: whole wheat breads, brown rice or quinoa.
- Sugar: fresh fruits or honey.
- High-fat dairy: low-fat dairy (like yogurt and cheeses), nut or plant-based milk.
- Butter: coconut oil, olive oil or ghee.
Investing in the healthy functioning of your body is one of the best things you can do for yourself. What you put into your body affects everything in your daily life, from your energy level to your mood, and has even been shown to impact your likelihood of experiencing depression.
Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare treats each client as a whole person, not just a list of symptoms to overcome. Addressing the roots of your mental health issues, whether that be through diet or some other form of treatment, is crucial to getting you the help you deserve. Reach out to start working on your overall health by visiting us online or calling (678) 673-3719 today.