Can a change in diet help with depression?

We write often about the benefits of a healthy diet, and discourage the consumption of processed and sugary foods due to its higher disease risk. But what about depression? Does the way we eat affect our mental health? Yes, it certainly does! Studies have demonstrated a link between food quality and mood.

Earlier this year, for instance, scientists in Australia also showed positive results in their study utilizing the Mediterranean diet. This study was called, “Supporting the Modification of Lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States” or SMILES. It included 67 patients with severe depression who were accustomed to eating a high intake of processed, salty, and sugary foods with a low intake of dietary fiber, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. The patients were divided into two groups. The first group received nutritional counseling on a Mediterranean-style diet designed to be sustainable, palatable, and satiating. It included a focus on whole grains, fresh vegetables, legumes, low-fat and unsweetened dairy, raw nuts, lean meat and eggs, and some wine. The control group received an equal number of sessions, but involving social support on topics of interest. The diet group had a 32% remission of their symptoms, while the social group only recorded a 8% decline. These results showed quite a significant reduction in symptoms of major depression with healthier eating habits.

Depression increases the risk of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. Healthy eating, on the other hand, not only aids in decreasing the risk of these other chronic illnesses, but also reduces symptoms of depression. Avoiding processed and sugary foods, and instead consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats is an excellent way to boost your physical and mental health, with no added side effects. Never underestimate the power of food!