Mental Health Week
Mental illness, such as depression, is common in Australia, effecting one in five people at some time. Depression can make it difficult to function on a daily basis, creating feelings of worthlessness, low motivation and insomnia. However, your diet may help.
Westernised, “cafeteria” style diets are energy (calorie) rich and nutrient poor leaving our bodies without any real nourishment despite their high calorie load. Such a diet can significantly increase anxiety and depression. In contrast, a Mediterranean style diet high in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, olive oil and wholegrains is linked with much lower rates of depression. In fact a Mediterranean style diet can reduce depression by 40- 60% as well as lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Want to elevate your mood with food?
Try eating these foods:
Leafy greens like Asian greens, kale, broccoli are excellent sources of folate, which has been linked with reduced rates of depression and healthy brain development during the early stages of pregnancy.
Fish. Oily fish, including salmon, sardines, mackeral and tuna are rich in Omega 3 which builds the neural connections in the brain and may be an effective treatment for depression. Check the labels of Omega 3 supplements and choose those products higher in EPA.
Nuts and seeds including sunflower seeds, walnuts and almonds are rich in anti oxidants including Vitamin E. The Mediterranean diet, when supplemented with nuts, is effective in reducing depression.
Regular meals containing low GI carbohydrates including wholegrains, pasta, legumes (incuding lentils and chickpeas) fruits and milk will help maintain stable blood glucose levels over the day. Fluctuations in blood sugar can destabilise your mood and produce sugar cravings. Wholegrains are also important for other B group vitamins needed for a healthy nervous system.
Tryptophan is needed to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel content. Tryptophan is found in foods such as lean meats, milk, eggs, fish, cheese. Tryptophan is also needed to produce melatonin vital for sleep. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue.
Probiotics found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi and saukerkrat. Research is shedding light on the important link between the bacteria in the gut (your so-called “second brain”) and your mood. Fermented foods promote a healthy gut and can also reduce anxiety and depression.
Tumeric contains the active ingredient curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that has been found to help antidepressants be more effective in treating depression. You can drink it in tea or add it to your everyday dishes like chilli or pasta sauce.
Tea is rich in the anti oxidant, L-theanine which increases alertness and relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.