Fruit And Veggies Can Protect Against Depression

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By Kirsten Cowart 

Eating healthy with say a Mediterranean diet or a diet full of fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes with very few processed types of meat can give you a much better chance of preventing depression. According to the Journal of BMC Medicine, eating healthy doesn’t just protect your body’s health, it protects your mind as well.

Extensive research into the effects of diet on physical health has been conducted over the last few years. Now, researchers are looking at the link between diet and mental health. In a study of 15,093 people, they found a strong link between dietary pattern and your risk of depression in particular.

What Diets Did They Compare?

This study compared three healthy diets – the pro-vegetarian diet, the Mediterranean diet and alternative healthy eating index-2010. The people who participated used a scoring system to determine how well they stuck to their chosen diet.

Foods such as sweets and meat were scored negatively, whereas fruits, veggies and nuts were positively scored. Basically, sources of animal fats, trans fat and saturated fats were scored as unhealthy and sources of omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and vitamins were scored as healthy.

The focus of the study was to compare people who regularly ate healthy with those who did not.  

What Do The Researchers Say?

Almudena Sanchez-Villegas from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria who lead the research said, “We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds. These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.

“The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”

How Did They Find What Was Effective?

The many participants of this research were depression-free at the beginning of the study. They were all part of the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) study, which has been observing diet in people of this region of Spain since 1999. The research has been used to help determine which lifestyles and dietary choices affect conditions such as obesity, depression and diabetes.

Each participant filled out a questionnaire at the beginning of the study and then again after 10 years. During that time, 1,550 people reported that they had been diagnosed with depression or that they began using antidepressant drugs after around 8.5 years.

Comparing The Diet Results

Alternative healthy eating index-2010 had the greatest reduction in the risks of getting depression. Researchers believe this is because it is so similar to the Mediterranean diet. Those participants who stuck closely to the lifestyle of eating nutritious foods greatly reduced their risk of depression when compared to those who didn’t stick to the healthy diet.

Having a moderate alcohol intake and eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and omega-3 fatty acids could be responsible for the results, according to the researchers.

Almudena Sanchez-Villegas says, “A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet. Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.

So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily. This dose-response pattern is compatible with the hypothesis that suboptimal intake of some nutrients (mainly located in low adherence levels) may represent a risk factor for future depression.”

What Else Needs To Be Evaluated Moving Forward?

There were some limits to this study, because each person self-reported their results. There was no monitoring by a trained professional to verify the depression diagnosis or how well they stuck to their selected diet, so there may be a few errors in the findings.

Researchers also need to see which nutrients prevent depression. It is still unclear which proteins and carbohydrates appear to increase depression as well.

Overall though, it seems that plant-based diets that are focused on fruits and veggies are key for avoiding depression and keeping your mind healthy.

What do you do to keep your mind healthy? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

Source: BioMed Central. “Fruit and vegetables aren’t only good for a healthy body; they protect your mind too.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150916215535.htm>.lleader_34 (1)

Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
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