The Role Of Nutrition In Depression

Although depression is a complex mental health issue, and multiple factors are involved in its development and maintenance, recent evidence suggests that habitual diet plays an important and independent role in the development of this condition.

The relationship between mood and our diet is bidirectional: when we eat good food, we feel good, and when we feel good, we are more likely to want to take care of our bodies by feeding it nutritious food. The opposite is also true… when we eat “junk food” we feel sluggish and down, and when feel down, we are less likely to snack on vegetables!

Which Nutrients Are Linked To Depression?

Intake of certain nutrients have been linked to better brain function and elevated mood. Such nutrients include:

  • N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

Rich sources: fish, fish oil, sea vegetables, flaxseed and walnuts

  • B vitamins particularly folate

Rich source: dark green vegetables, liver, yeast extract

  • Vitamin D

Rich source: full fat dairy, oily fish, eggs and of course, Sunlight (UVB radiation)!

  • Zinc

Rich source: seafood, meat, legumes, nuts and seeds

Can Tryptophan And Vitamin B6 Make Us Happy?

Serotonin, a.k.a. the “happiness signal”, is a neurotransmitter released by our brain cells , that plays a major role in regulating mood. Food we consume has the capacity to influence our bodies serotonin levels.

The amino-acid tryptophan is the building block of serotonin. Presence of an enzyme, derived from vitamin B6 is critical to allow for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. As such, both vitamin B6 and tryptophan are critical for serotonin synthesis and lack of tryptophan and B6 in the diet has been linked to depression. Interestingly, a positive side-effect of consuming a tryptophan-rich diet is enhanced satiety and better quality sleep.

Good sources of vitamin B6 and tryptophan are:

  • Poultry
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Beef liver
  • Dairy products
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Brown rice
  • Bran
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Wheat germ

The Role Of “Gut Microbiota” In Depression

The gut-brain- axis refers to the bidirectional communication pathway between our brain and our gut. The microbial community that inhabit our gut, otherwise known as “the gut microbiota” is the major player in this communication pathway.

Both the number and the type of intestinal microbes are important to our mental health, mainly because  these microbes are involved in serotonin metabolism.

As such, supplementation with probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus Planarum, can positively influence mood.

Consuming fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, as well as a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetable can also support the health of our microbiota.

Can A Mediterranean Diet Lower The Risk Of Depression?

Major components of a Mediterranean diet are: healthy fats such as olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds and seafood. A recent study published in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry found that individuals who followed a Mediterranean diet had almost 30% reduced risk of developing depression.

This does make sense, as the Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients that support brain health and lacks foods that may be damaging to brain functioning such as trans fats, processed meats and high-intakes of alcohol. Additionally, high-intakes of fruits, vegetables and nuts, have been shown to reduce inflammation. We know that inflammation can influence how we feel by affecting hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate our mood.

It is worth mentioning that the lower risk of depression in individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet  could also be related to other contributing factors such as exercising, not smoking, and socialising more.

How Can We Support You?

As mentioned above, there is a bidirectional link between our mood and our diet. As such, maximum benefits are achieved when mental health issues and nutrition are tackled simultaneously.

 Our experienced therapists at EmotionMatters will provide you with practical tools that enable you to cope better with difficult life matters, so that you are less likely to turn to “comfort foods” to distract you away from upsetting emotions.

Our experienced Nutritionists will help you adopt a diet that supports your mental and physical health by providing you with rational tips that are easy to follow.

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