What you eat can affect your risk of the most common mood disorder in the United States: depression.
Mental health begins with lifestyle: nutritious food; regular exercise; sufficient sleep; and coping skills.
The chemical components of food impact one’s state of mind throughout the day — that is, after every meal and snack. A long period of time without nourishment (fasting) activates survival emotions throughout the brain. Food, or the lack of it, thus alters both feelings and thoughts.
A significant part of the treatment program for patients with depression is a brain-healthy diet prescription designed by what may be termed a nutritional psychiatrist. Clearly, changing one’s eating habits requires more time and energy than swallowing a pill. However, research in mental health has appeared, showing the flaws of prescribing quick-fix medications — in the absence of healthy habits.
A recent study published in BioMed Central Medicine tested the effect of prescribing both a modified Mediterranean Diet and medication to treat patients with clinical depression. Thirty-three percent of the patients given medication plus a modified Mediterranean Diet plan achieved remission in 12 weeks. However, eight percent of the patients prescribed medication only reached remission in the same period of time. (Study by S. Reddy, January, 2017) This mood-enhancing cuisine is highly concentrated in brain-protective foods: fruits; vegetables; legumes; whole grains; raw, unsalted nuts; low-fat, unsweetened dairy foods; olive oil; and fish.
The positive effects of nutrition intervention reported in this study have encouraged psychiatrists to prioritize this diet prescription for all patients diagnosed with depression. The modified Mediterranean food plan may help prevent the incidence of depression in persons at high risk, aid patients who reject medication, and may block the progression from mild depression to serious depression.
Regardless of one’s family history, the brain can slip into an imbalanced state that alters mood and mind-power. The wise statement, “You become what you eat,” applies to everyone. The original Mediterranean cuisine has already scored high ratings against brain atrophy, pain, and all age-related diseases. The Mind Diet, another modified format of the Mediterranean Diet, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Cook, eat, and share mood-enhancing meals. It’s a challenge that delivers great rewards for the brain — sharper thinking and happier moments.
Dr. Laura Pawlak (Ph.D., R.D. emerita) is a world-renown biochemist and dietitian emerita. She is the author of many scientific publications and has written such best-selling books as “The Hungry Brain,” “Life Without Diets,” and “Stop Gaining Weight.” On the subjects of nutrition and brain science, she gives talks internationally.