concept of depression. A sad young girl surrounded by others where you can easily see her being emotionally drained

Depression was the second leading cause of years lived with a disability worldwide (according to a 2013 statistics). Almost 20% of those aged 16 or over in the UK experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Depression might not only harm us but also change us forever if left untreated for long periods of time.

Meanwhile we cannot totally eradicate depression, we can find ways to overcome it as effectively as possible. 

We have many drugs that aim to treat depression. Depression is usually treated using a combination of drugs, behavioural therapies and a number of recent novel techniques. However, too little is normally mentioned on how food can be used against depression. Is there a certain diet or food item that can help you to fight or to even contain depression? 

Before we explore how to treat depression using diets, what does depression really feel like? 

How Does Depression Really Feel Like? 

As the morning alarm rings, it expects a reasonable person to wake up in anticipation of a new day. But here, the story is far from average. You hated the morning light soaring through curtains, the mere idea of a modern-day. This is depression. Seeing food at the breakfast table that once was your favorite dish, now seems tasteless. The food aversion kicks in. Spending the day with a zero nutrient intake seems like a routine. It pushes us into a vicious circle in which mental health deteriorates because of less nutrient intake.  A sword lingering over your brain, mind, body and soul, forcing you to accept the fact that you are not good enough. That there is melancholy in everything, and everything is just your fault. So you drown in it, day by day, gradually, it eats you up, deteriorating your health. This is depression.

Healthy Diet and Depression, A Research Affirmation

There is a high risk of encountering many problems once you reach adolescence. Dietary improvement and adopting a healthy lifestyle is a cost-effective method of reducing the risk of depressive disorders.

Researchers categorized diet and depression based studies into two categories, Population-based studies and Interventional studies. Population-based studies aim to answer research questions for a defined set of the population. The results are generalizable to the entire population addressed. Interventional studies are similar to the widely known clinical trials. Participants receive a sort of an intervention or medicine to evaluate its efficacy. 

Population-based studies revealed that depression is common in those who have a reduced intake of omega-three fatty acids. Scientists found a significant reduction of omega three and polyunsaturated fatty acids in red blood cells.

Interventional studies showed that fats and carbohydrate intake directly influence mental health. Specific vitamins and minerals affect mood swings. Zinc, Chromium and Omega three fatty acids have direct effects on our mental health.

Read our article where we discussed the effects of carbohydrates on our mental and social wellbeing: Carbs Can Be Bad to Your Health, What about Your Mood? 

Does Your Gender Affect the Outcome of Dietary Interventions on Depression?

Sixteen randomized controlled trials were conducted on 45,826 participants. The aim was to examine the relation between non-clinical depression and diet. Results revealed that dietary intervention significantly reduced depressive symptoms. Meanwhile the results showed significant reduction in depressive disorders in both females and males, female participants showed significantly greater benefits. 

Studies show that there is less incidence of depressive disorders in those who take a balanced diet nutrition. Males require more energy for their muscle growth and also for the proper functioning of the brain.

Daily work is disturbed, and life becomes dull for the one who is deprived of a healthy diet. An investigation on the relationship between dietary patterns and depression illustrated that healthy patterns reduce the risk of depressive disorders in adults. It also revealed that western diets may increase the risk of depression.

To read more about how variations in dietary patterns around the world affect your physical and emotional health please read our article: The Most Important Nutrients Missing in Your Diet. 

Good Food, Good Life

In very few instances people are aware of the fact that nutrition and depression are interlinked. Just like the way nutritional deficiencies and physical illnesses are intertwined.

Depression is seen as just having some biochemical basis or some strict deep-rooted economical basis. Schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and OCD are commonly prevalent mental disorders. In many populations throughout the world, due to different factors, diets are deficient in specific nutrients such as omega-three fatty acids, minerals, vitamins.

Following are examples of foods rich in such nutrients:

Apricots, peaches, sweet potatoes, strawberries, oranges, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

Amino Acid Rich Diets

Supplementing the diet with amino acids can drastically reduce symptoms. This is because amino acids are converted to chemicals that help in controlling the balance between neurotransmitters that are disturbed initially in mental health disorders.

Therefore nutritional supplements can play a significant role in therapeutic techniques for patients suffering from depression.

Micro and Macro Nutrients

We are always looking for innovative and improved strategies for treatment, promotion, and prevention of mental health illnesses. Patients suffering from such diseases usually have unhealthy food choices. Therefore food history is an essential step in the diagnosis of such conditions.

Vitamin B12, folate, and Zinc are also said to play a significant role in behavioral disorders, and most patients suffering from depression, lack these three nutrients in their diet.

Patients need counseling on lifestyle modifications such as modification of diet. Vitamin B12, folate, and Zinc are also said to play a significant role in behavioral disorders, and most patients suffering from depression, lack these three nutrients in the diet. The brain occupies 20% of a person’s calorie intake that is equal to almost 400 calories per day. So it has high metabolic demands, and surely diet has an effect on its adequate functioning.

Mineral dependent cofactors and amino acids are the building blocks of the body’s metabolism. Therefore, pathophysiology of many mental health illnesses, particularly depression, depends on them.

Omega-Three Fatty Acids

One such notable nutrient is omega-three fatty acid. It plays part in the integrity of the nervous system. It serves as a regulator of neurotransmission in the central and peripheral nervous systems of the body. It influences gene expression, enhances neuronal survival rate and increases neurogenesis.

It also influences the formation of synapses and neuronal cell membrane stability. Neurons are molecular pathways in our brain that take the message from one part to other parts for a coordinated and cognitive movement. Neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, are required in an adequate amount to maintain the balance for different body functions. These neurons are, in turn, an integral part of the central nervous system, any damage to which results in mental health disorders.

Therefore deficient omega-three fatty acid intake can be related to mental health diseases like depression.

A Lot of Information, But That Is a Good Sign 

Depression has vast implications on us individually. It affects us mentally, socially and physically. It is important to know that there are certain types of food that can make your time dealing with depression better and getting over it faster. On the contrary, it is really important to understand what types of food to avoid when you are going through depression.

Meanwhile eating a large potion of pizza sounds like a brilliant idea and might give you short term mental gains, it is important to understand that following such unhealthy dietary patterns over long periods of time will only worsen your state. 

Try to look for ingredients that are rich in amino acids, micro and macro nutrients, and as shown above, omega three fatty acids.