George Bernard Shaw wasn’t wrong when he commented the phrase, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food”, but what good can this love foster if it involves love for a cholesterol and fats rich unhealthy diet (cheese burgers, pizzas, sodas, ice cream shakes, etc.) rather than love for a protein-based healthy diet (fish, pulses, vegetables, mutton, chicken, milk, etc.). We all have grown listening to the refrain: Eat your vegetables to grow big and strong but have we heard it before that a healthy diet can make us happier too? It most definitely can, according to a newly conducted research by Australian researchers.
According to this research, a small study was conducted that involved young adolescents with relatively poor diets and varying degrees of the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. Out of these adolescents, those who opted for healthier food choices were reportedly happier, in better moods and experienced less anxiety within a time frame of a few weeks, than those who preferred a unhealthy diet. The findings of this research were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
According to Heather Francis, the lead author of the research study, embracing a diet that is monumental in processed foods (sugar and saturated fats) tends to increase the risks of the symptoms of various types of depressive and mood-altering disorders. These disorders in return cause unhappiness, sadness, melancholy, sorrow, displeasure and extreme lack of incentive or motivation to work and indulge in life.
Almost half of the participants of the research study were counseled to include vegetables, fruits, fish, mutton, olive oil, etc. to their diet, thus mitigating their intake of processed foods. On the other hand, the other half was given no counseling and was left to choose as per its regular diet. After a time period of almost three weeks, those of the participants who took a better diet displayed better moods. Their depression scores were normal. They reported less anxiety levels than the group that was left to choose its diet as per its own whims. The depression and anxiety levels of the latter group displayed a moderate to high range.
The study revealed that even median changes in diet posed such extraordinary results. The amount or eating capacity though wasn’t altered or limited that is, the adolescents were not in any way restricted to eat within a prescribed limit rather were simply subject to limitations on processed foods such as sweets, fast food and sugary drinks. In contrast to this, their vegetable, fruit, whole grains, olive oil and fish intake was augmented. This however proved to be the identifying factor in the evidence of relatively better or worse prevalent moods.
According to the take of Heather Francis on these revelatory results, the importance of the results of this study was that such modest changes were actually involved in achieving more than the desired or satisfactory results. Heather further states that since depressive disorders are related to chronic inflammatory response, improper and poor selection of diet augments inflammation and is also a contributory factor for inducing and enhancing depressive moods.
According to the findings of another study that was conducted by a research team from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, depressive and mood-altering disorders were majorly linked to a diet that had a high concentration of sodium and a low concentration of potassium. It was also hypothesized that since in teenagers, emotional regulation is still in its developmental phase, it is essentially possible that diet and various other environmental factors strongly impact the levels of depression of such persons.
While it was noted in detail that several aspects of life are uncontrollable or rather difficult to control, a good diet and eating habits should be highly incentivized through proper mechanisms and channels.
Fruits, vegetables and curd are low in sodium and contain high amounts of potassium so these should be encouraged in the routinely dietary plans of every teen as teenagers are more prone to such disorders due to their over-exposure to the contributory factors of depressive disorders. Although both the studies reveal that healthy and good eating or food intake poses a positive effect on the symptoms of depression or mood-altering disorders, researchers have cautioned that a healthy diet can not at the current stage serve as a viable replacement for proper medication to treat depression or other anxiety disorders.
Healthy diet may well be defined or classified as a strategy to safeguard mental health rather than as a permanent anti-depressant to help relieve every known category of mood-altering disorders. Below are mentioned some of the foods that might be considered as fighting inflammation in the body that leads to depression. These foods are classified as;
- Dry Fruits: Dry fruits such as cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that help boost mood.
- Green leafy vegetables: Green foods are the most powerful immune system boosters. These green leafy foods are also capable of posing anti-cancer effects.
- Berries: Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are one of those foods that contain that highest levels of antioxidants.
- Avocado: Avocadoes are mostly used in salads for enhancing flavor. They contain essential fats and acids such as Oleic Acid that helps the brain in running smoothly.
- Onions: Onions and several other allium vegetables are helpful in protecting against several types of cancers. According to a research, onions help reduce risk of the cancers of the digestive tract.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are peculiar to such chemical properties that oppose insulin. This helps in lowering blood sugar levels, thus evening the mood.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in folic acid that fights against depression.
- Chocolate: It is often heard that chocolate alters the mood and induces feelings of happiness and positivity. Chocolate and especially dark chocolate, stimulates the production of endorphins, chemical compounds of the body that are responsible for pleasure.
- Beans: Beans are rich in mood-evening fiber. They also act against diabetes and are known commonly as weight loss foods. Beans are mostly used in salads.
- Seeds: Seeds, and especially sunflower seeds are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids that increase the absorption of protective nutrients found in vegetables and fruits eaten subsequently.