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Depression is the most common mental health condition affecting Americans. An estimated 19 million Americans are living with depression.
Depression can affect anyone, but women are at higher risk for developing this condition, which is marked by prolonged periods of sadness, lethargy, lack of interest, appetite changes and weight fluctuations.
While there are a host of pharmaceutical medications that can help to reduce depressive symptoms, lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise have been shown to play an important role in the abatement and lessening of symptoms and re-occurrence.
While there is no specific anti-depression diet, many foods and other lifestyle factors have been clinically shown to improve depression.
In using diet and exercise as a way to manage depression, the individual empowers him or herself to take control over their condition and their life. Adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors represents a wonderful opportunity for viewing mental and physical health as a holistic process that requires nurture, care and personal responsibility.
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- Empowers individual to view their health from a holistic perspective
- Promotes healthy foods
- Avoids processed foods and reliance on stimulants
- Strongly encourages exercise as a way to improve mood
- Places more control in the hands of the sufferer rather than in a pill
- Food and exercise may not be the only solutions to reduce symptoms of depression
Following a Depression Diet requires that the individual view their health as an interrelated process. In doing so, they experience how the food choices they make, whether it is the selection of foods, the reasons for eating or not eating and the amount of food consumed, affects their physical and mental health.
Scientists now have evidence that food alters brain chemistry both chemically and physiologically. Researchers also know that certain foods can quickly provide a temporary burst of emotion or energy, which is often followed by a let-down effect. Foods like caffeine, white sugar and heavily processed foods are examples of foods that may do more harm than good, especially since they are high in calories and fat and have a strong addictive quality to them.
Here is a breakdown of some key foods that provide the brain and body with important nutrients that help to promote wellness.
- Good carbohydrates: It's no wonder that most comfort foods are mostly carbohydrates. When your body eats carbohydrates, your body releases the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, which provides you with a boost in spirits. But unfortunately, not all carbs are created equally. Simple sugars and refined flours which are found in processed and convenience foods may provide the person with a very short-lived lift in spirits soon to be followed by a dip in energy and mood. In addition, these foods are high in calories and fat, which can lead to weight gain, which in turn can lead to more depression. Therefore eating the right foods promotes a healthy cycle of wellness, while eating the wrong foods perpetuates a cycle of negativity.
Since carbs have a strong mood component to them, it is important to choose the right carbs in order to keep blood sugar levels stable, weight stable and energy balanced. Vegetables, fruits, whole-grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley and couscous are nutrient-rich carbohydrate choices.
Good fats: Just like carbs, fat can make us feel good. Fat also produces a feeling of satiety. Omega-3 fats, like those found in salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds and tuna have been strongly associated with a decreased risk for depression.
Plant foods: Foods that are found in and created by nature are powerful allies when it comes to both physical and mental health. Fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients that provide the body and brain with what it needs to function at its best.
Vitamin D: Since Vitamin D releases serotonin in the brain, it is very important for someone with depression to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of this super-star nutrient. While our bodies generate Vitamin D via sun exposure, for those living in colder and darker climates, supplementation of 600 IU a day is recommended as a way to ensure your body is getting enough. Fortified cereals, milk and eggs can also up recommended levels.
Selenium: A Texas Tech University, found that selenium mineral supplementation improved mild and moderate depression in elderly participants. This antioxidant can be found in beans and legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meats and nuts and seeds. Since it is possible to overdose on selenium, experts recommend getting this nutrient from foods rather than supplements.
Eating a healthy diet is so important because it also helps to control body weight. There have been many studies that show those who are overweight or obese have a higher rates of depression than those who maintain a healthy body weight. And those who are depressed are at an increased risk for being obese. This dangerous two-way street can be prevented by eating a healthy, low-fat and calorie-controlled diet.EXERCISE
Exercise and its impact on mental health has not only been widely studied, but regular fitness has been validated in study after study for its ability to improve mood, boost self-esteem and enhance energy levels. Since these are some of the hallmark symptoms of depression, exercise should be an integral part of any treatment plan that intends to successfully treat depression and reduce the risk of its re-occurrence.
Mental health experts recommend engaging in moderate cardiovascular activity three to five times a week, for 30 minutes or longer at a time. The idea with exercise and depression is to find something that you enjoy doing and continue to do it.
Also, it is important to set reasonable goals. Don't expect your depression to be lifted after just one three-mile run in the park. Instead, focus on engaging in an activity that you enjoy and do it with frequency and enthusiasm.CONCLUSION
As more and more research elucidates how food, exercise and body weight play a role in the prevention and treatment of depression, it becomes increasingly more important to view lifestyle behaviors like nutrition and exercise as a regular part of a depression treatment plan.
While there is no specific Depression Diet, there is strong evidence to support that eating a healthy diet, one that is full of plant-based and fresh foods, as well as exercising regularly is a very effective and empowering way to control the symptoms of depression and successfully manage this very prevalent mental health condition.Common Misspellings
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