A lot of ‘depression’ talk has been going round in the past week; from popular TV shows like #theTrend to morning shows like #morning express. It is clear that depression can be very serious, and sometimes causes someone to do irredeemable acts.
And so, I sought to find out if indeed, as they say “Food is the best medicine”, there is a relationship between good nutrition and the way depression symptoms affect a person; or whether certain eating patterns affect the way we feel about certain situations as compared to others. And indeed, recent evidence indicates a strong relationship between diet and our mental health.
Every part of our body needs a certain way of nourishment for effective function. Therefore the brain also needs nourishment in order to function as it’s supposed to. Certain dietary habits affect the brain either positively or negatively in the long run.
Some tips on nourishing and maintaining good mental health
Eat healthy, fresh foods. Avoid processed foods as they tend to have additives that eventually interfere with the chemical composition of our bodies, thus affecting the way it works. Fresh food products on the other hand only promise great body working condition! Ensure you eat a good serving of fresh vegetables and fruits each day, and if you can, develop a preference for freshly prepared meals or meals made from scratch.
Eat whole meal carbohydrates in place of simple or processed ones. Sugary foods/processed starches are absorbed into the bloodstream very fast, thus increasing the blood sugar level for a certain period of time. This causes a certain ‘high’, and after the energy has been used up, a person will start to feel abit tired and weary, what is called a ‘low’. On the other hand, whole meal carbohydrates have complex sugars which are broken down and absorbed by the cells slowly, avoiding ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ since there’s a constant level of energy throughout. This strategy will therefore help avoid mood swings.
Ensure there is a healthy portion of protein in each meal that you have. Proteins are not only important in building good muscle and tissue, but they also provide an amino acid that has been shown to have healthy benefits for the mood, namely; tryptophan. Have a serving of meat, beans, soy, egg etc at each meal. Other sources of protein like cereals also have other micronutrients that are beneficial for the brain as well like Vitamin B, Iron, folate and zinc.
Fats and oils.
Unhealthy fats like transfats are detrimental to the health of the brain whereas healthy options like the omega 3 fatty acids are some of the best for your brain. Sources include oily fish like salmon and sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and shrimp.
Vegetables and fruits
These are a haven for many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial not only to the brain, but the body as a whole too. Be sure to get a fresh supply every now and then. When cooking vegetables, cook under low heat and for a short time to avoid nutrient loss.
Spread out your meals
Spread out your meals evenly throughout the day so as to ensure a constant supply of energy to your body all through. This also helps to avoid ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ which can result to mood swings. You can have three main meals alternated by healthy snacks in between. (TIP: you are better off having several small meals than two or three big ones.)
Find time during your day to exercise. Studies show that exercise has awesome benefits to the mood as during exercise; feel good hormones called endorphins are released, thus having a positive influence on your mood. Outdoor exercise can be especially beneficial due to the fresh air outside which helps to maintain good circulation of blood in the brain.
As much as a good diet and good eating habits can relieve the symptoms of depression, one should still adhere to any medication for the condition that will be given.