Depression and Diet
5. Eat a Mediterranean-Type Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish.
A Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, found that rates of depression tended to increase in men -- especially smokers -- as folate intake decreased. The same increase occurred for women -- especially those who smoked or were not physically active -- but with a decreased intake of another B-vitamin: B12. This wasn't the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression. Researchers wonder whether poor nutrient intake leads to depression or whether depression leads people to eat a poor diet.
Folate is found in Mediterranean diet staples like legumes, nuts, many fruits, and dark green vegetables. B12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.
6. Get Plenty of Vitamin D
A 2010 national study found that the likelihood of having depression is higher in people with deficiency in vitamin D compared to people who are sufficient in vitamin D. In another study, researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to improve as their levels of vitamin D in the body increased over the normal course of a year. Vitamin D receptors are found in the brain. Researchers, though, are unsure how much vitamin D is ideal.
7. Select Selenium-Rich Foods
Selenium is a mineral that is essential to good health. Studies have reported an association between low selenium intake and poorer moods, although evidence isn't conclusive on whether supplementation can help.
It is possible to take in too much selenium so that it becomes toxic. But this is unlikely if you're getting it from foods rather than supplements, and it can't hurt to make sure you're eating foods that help you meet the recommended intake for selenium, which is 55 micrograms a day for adults. The good news is that foods rich in selenium are foods we should be eating anyway. They include:
- Beans and legumes
- Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
- Low-fat dairy products
- Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts)
- Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
- Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
8. Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Your Diet
We know that omega-3 fatty acids have innumerable health benefits. Recently, scientists have revealed that a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression. In one study, researchers determined that societies that eat a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids have a higher prevalence of major depressive disorder than societies that get ample omega-3 fatty acids. Other studies show that people who infrequently eat fish, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, are more likely to suffer from depression.
- Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad, and tuna), flaxseed, and nuts.
- Sources alpha-linolenic acid (another type of omega-3 fatty acid): flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.