By Rebekah Louise
Did you know that eating plant-based foods may help to prevent depression?
Depression is an illness that affects 264 million people across the world. It can range in severity and can affect individuals differently.
There are many root causes of depression. Depression can be brought on by genetic vulnerability, stress, medications, faulty mood regulation in the brain, and medical reasons.
There are various treatments including medication, talking therapies, and lifestyle changes such as exercising, increasing sleep, and relaxation techniques.
In this post we are going to take a look at how a plant-based diet can prevent and alleviate depression.
We will then discuss how to make the switch to a plant-based diet and how you can do this in manageable steps.
Depression and a Plant-Based Diet
How does eating plant-based foods help your mental health? Eating a plant-based diet can help reduce inflammation in the body and redress the balance of hormones and chemicals working both inside and outside of the nerve cells.
Recent research has shown that diet may play a key role in preventing and treating depression. A study in 2016 concluded that there are 5 dietary recommendations needed to help depression. These included,
- Increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, and seeds .
- Replacing unhealthy foods with whole food choices.
- Limiting processed foods.
- Following a Mediterranean diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Eat a higher amount of foods rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Further research conducted by Professor Felice Jacka in 2017 supports these recommendations. The study was over a 3-month period and focused on adults with severe depression.
The adults were split into two groups. One group received social support to help with their depression. The other group were given support to improve their diet.
They were asked to increase their consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, lean meats, olive oil, and nuts. They also reduced their consumption of unhealthy foods, such as sweets, refined grains, fried food, fast food, processed meats, and sugary drinks.
The study concluded that a third of those who had changed their diet met the criteria for reducing their depression, compared to just 8% of those who received social support.
Professor Felice Jacka said the results of her team’s study offered a possible new treatment approach to depression. She went on to say, “We’ve known for some time that there is a clear association between the quality of people’s diets and their risk for depression…This is the case across countries, cultures and age groups, with healthy diets associated with reduced risk, and unhealthy diets associated with increased risk for depression.”
Switching to a Plant-Based Diet
So what does this mean for you? Perhaps you’re concerned about becoming depressed, or you are battling with depression and you’d like to try addressing this through your food choices.
It’s always important to get your doctor’s advice before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.
It’s common for people to want to make big changes quickly if they think it may help their health. However, it’s a good idea to make the transition to a plant-based diet slowly. It can be a significant lifestyle change and you are more likely to succeed if you break it down and take it in steps.
If you’d like to follow a plant-based diet then here are some tips to help you get started,
- Increase the number of vegetables you are eating
- Reduce or eliminate meat and fish and replace with foods such as tofu or beans and peas.
- Eat fruit for snacks and dessert
- Have a whole grain for breakfast, such as oatmeal. Add fruit for flavor and texture
- Choose healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, nut butters, and dark chocolate
- Ask a friend to support you who will be happy to encourage you on your journey
- Join an online support group for those eating a plant-based diet
Wrapping It Up
Research has shown that eating plant-based foods can have a positive impact on preventing or addressing depression. Making the switch to a plant-based diet can be a challenge, but is well worth the effort. Remember to always seek medical advice and guidance when managing depression.
Rebekah Louise is a freelance writer who has a passion for both physical and emotional health and wellness. More of her writing can be found at RebekahLouiseWrites.com. When she is not writing, she can be found playing with her son, walking the dog with the family, or practicing yoga.