Your brain is a muscle that works 24/7, which means it requires a constant supply of “fuel”. Just like a car needs fuel. However, you wouldn’t put gas in a diesel car, would you? No! And just like a car, your brain needs the right kind of fuel. Lots of carbs and junk food are not it.
Being depressed doesn’t really give you a lot of energy to go by, which also makes it hard to implement a healthy diet. When I was at my absolute lowest, I ate junk food and unhealthy cereal and bagels for breakfast. I couldn’t care less about the food I put into my body, but the truth is that I should have.
Over the last couple of years, I have gained weight. I have honestly not been on a weight scale for years, because I am afraid to see the numbers on it. I no longer feel as comfortable in my body, as I used to and I used to be very athletically built. Today, I am slowly losing weight again, but it is not an easy task.
At the moment, I am trying to lose 10-15 kilograms. In order for me to do so, I am slowly starting to change the way I eat. Implementing a healthy diet is not only good for weight loss, it also affects your mental health drastically. I thought I would share with you how a healthy diet can improve your depression.
The right kind of fuel for your brain
A healthy diet has been shown to significantly relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Examined and analyzed data from more than 46.000 people with mental health issues suggest that a diet rich in fiber and vegetables is key to a healthy mind. Generally, the data suggest that weight loss, nutrient boosting and fat reduction diets can all reduce the symptoms of depression.
It honestly should be common knowledge for everyone that there is a well-established connection between your diet and your physical health, right? Why shouldn’t that connection be the same with your mental and psychological health?
The brain is an organ like your heart. Just as your body needs healthy food to function properly, your brain needs the same thing. Your brain is always working. It takes care of your thoughts and emotions, your movements, your heartbeat, your breathing, and your senses.
Your brain works 24/7, which means that your brain requires a constant supply of “fuel”. This fuel is the food you eat. Simply put, what you put in your mouth affects your brain. If you eat a steady diet of unhealthy junk food and drink a lot of soda, alcohol, and caffeine it will affect your brain and your mood in a bad way.
High-quality foods are good for your brain
Eating high-quality foods consisting of a full range of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, whole grains, nuts, avocado, healthy oils, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will nourish your brain and protect it from oxidative stress.
Diets that are high in refined sugars are harmful to your brain. It will not only worsen your body’s insulin level, it will also promote inflammation and oxidative stress in your brain, which may worsen several mental health issues.
I never used to look at food this way, but if you do not fuel your brain with high-quality foods, damaging inflammatory cells will contribute to brain tissue injuries, which does have consequences for your overall mental health – like depression (Source).
How can you implement a healthier diet?
When I really started paying attention to my diet I did a 30-day no sugar challenge. For those 30 days I avoided:
- Desserts or sweets
- Sugary drinks
- Refined carbs – white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc.
- Artificial sweeteners/sugar substitutes
- Sugar condiments – ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing, etc.
- Alcoholic beverages
You obviously don’t have to do this, but this was a way for me to cut out remotely everything that was unhealthy, and I honestly felt so much better after 30 days of no sugar.
Not eating any of the above mentioned is also known as a “clean diet”, which means that you cut out all processed foods and sugar. If you feel up to it after this 30-day challenge, it is also an option to go dairy- and gluten-free.
Healthy foods to eat, when you are depressed
As mentioned earlier our brain requires vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and there are certain foods, which are better for your brain than others.
Whole grains are a great source of carbohydrates. The primary energy source for our brain is glucose, which you get from carbohydrates. Without glucose, the brain doesn’t function. However, it is important that the carbohydrates you eat are the good kind. Not all carbohydrates are good for you.
Try to stay away from white bread, white rice, and white pasta, etc., as whole grains or whole food carbohydrates are better sources of fiber and nutrients. The fibers in whole grains will help reduce the blood sugar spikes and whole grains are also a much better source of nutrients like B-vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron, etc.
Diets rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, beans, grains, fish and healthy fats (like olive oil) have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.
Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, A, beta-carotene, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, etc.
Diets are unique to every person
It is true that there is a lot of science surrounding nutritional food and diets, but it is also important to remember that every single person in this world is unique. How you feel about different food is unique to every person.
There is research and studies showing that this and this diet is good for x. That is true. However, just because it is a diet, doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own diet. Do you enjoy a nice burger and fries? Make a healthier version of it and eat it with a good conscience.
There are so many different recipes out there and so many different variations. A diet doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it your own and enjoy your diet your way.
What are your thoughts on diets and mental health? I would love to hear your experiences and ideas...