- Diet is an extremely important component of mental health
- You can even include pumpkin or squash seeds for better overall health
- Chicken and turkey are undoubtedly great sources of lean protein
Diet is an extremely important component of mental health. Depression and diet are closely related to each other. Several studies have found that people who eat a poor-quality diet that was high in comfort food like pasta, burgers, chips, sugary foods, processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products were more likely to report symptoms of depression. The good news is that the people who eat a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, dark green leafy vegetables and fish were less likely to being depressed. We all should keep in mind that quality matters over quantity especially when it comes to what we eat, quality really, really matters. Moreover, some of these small changes in your diet may help you to decrease your symptoms and have a positive effect on your daily life.
Also read: Depression: 8 Early Signs And Symptoms
According to the Delhi based nutritionist Monisha Ashokan, ''Mental health refers to the cognitive , behavioral and emotional well-being. A healthy mind has the ability to learn, feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions. How you feed your body also has an impact on your mental health. A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.''
Monisha further mentions some foods that cause anxiety. These include juices, canned food, fast food, high sodium foods, trans fats and packed snacks. On the other hand, foods that help to calm are almonds, milk, yogurt, eggs, carrots, legumes, salmon fish, avocado, banana, spinach and chamomile tea.
(Monisha Ashokan ia a city based nutritionist at Nourish Me)
Foods to include in your diet if you are suffering from poor mental health:
1. Brain-healthy fats: Some of us think that including fat in your diet can have negative effects on our body. But it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy sources of fat. Healthy fats like those found in nuts, eggs, avocados, olive oil, cheese, whole grains and fish are crucial for brain health and may play an important role in fighting depression.
2. Green vegetables: Dark, green, fresh and leafy vegetables like watercress, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, broccoli, kale are important for preventing or treating depressive disorders. These vegetables are rich in folate and a water-soluble B vitamin. Low folate levels have been linked to depressive symptoms and poor response to antidepressants.
3. Seeds: Including healthy seeds in your diet like flax seeds and chia seeds are fantastic additions to your diet if you are struggling with depression. As an added benefit, these two types of seeds are particularly great sources of Omega-3 fats. Along with these two nutrient dense seeds you can even include pumpkin or squash seeds for better overall health.
4. Poultry: Chicken, fatty fish like salmon and turkey are undoubtedly great sources of lean protein that can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and keeping your mood well-balanced during the day. In addition to being trusted sources of lean protein, turkey and chicken breasts are known to provide high amounts of tryptophan as well.
5. Bananas: A single banana contains about 22 percent of your daily vitamin B6, a nutrient that helps your body make the neurotransmitter serotonin, high amounts of potassium and low serotonin levels that are linked to depression.
Some common foods which you should avoid:
- Refined grains
According to the Delhi based nutritionist and author Pooja Malhotra, ''While depression and stress take a great toll on mental health, they also sometimes lead people to resort to comfort foods that are mostly high in sugar, fat and caffeine. These foods mostly provide a temporary kick to the system, they lead to highs, lows and eventually more cravings. Obviously these foods further deteriorate your health as they lead to weight gain and a drop in self-esteem which aggravates depression and stress. As such there is no proven diet for depression but there are certain foods that certainly should be avoided like sugar, caffeine, alcohol and in some cases dairy and gluten too.''
The nutritionist further adds, ''Whereas, foods that help to instantly lift your mood are the omega -3 rich foods like walnuts, flax seeds, fatty fish; the antioxidant rich citrus fruits like orange, sweet lime, guava, berries and leafy greens. Smart carbs or complex carbs have a calming effect as they don’t cause highs and lows and lean protein improves alertness. Tryptophan rich milk helps to induce a sound sleep which is so important to combat stress and depression. Exercise is a great anti-depressant too, it lifts your mood like nothing else. So it is important to get adequate sleep and exercise regularly too.''
(Pooja Malhotra is a Delhi based nutritionist and an author)
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