According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), proper nutrition and avoiding excessive intake of alcohol, sugars, and caffeine can be critical to the prevention and regulation of depression. In fact, a 2008 study by Rao et al. for the Indian Journal of Psychiatry notes that poor nutrition can play a primary role in the onset of depressive illness. This study also concluded that the consumption of specific foods can prevent depression.
Symptoms and Causes of Depression
The DBSA notes that depression is an illness involving neurotransmitters in the brain. Depression can occur after a stressful life event such as a divorce or a death in the family. Common symptoms of depression include prolonged sadness, sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, and a loss of interest in daily activities. Some individuals may have increased appetite and gain weight while depressed, while others experience a loss of appetite and weight.
Foods Important for Depression
Rao at al., note that foods low on the glycemic index, such as many fruits and vegetables or whole grained pastas and bread, are more likely to give people a lasting source of energy and elevated mood. Foods high in sugars tend to cause a rapid elevation in blood sugar, which quickly elevates mood, but the effects are very temporary, and mood can lower once the sugar processes through the body.
Vitamins and Minerals for Depression
Rao et al. also say that a variety of research indicates that both vitamin B-12 and Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in preventing depression. Both of these substances are key to the correct functioning of neurotransmitters. According to these researchers, populations that have a high consumption of fish in their diet have lower reports of mental illness, such as depression. Scientists attribute this to the presence of Omega-3. In addition, Rao et al. note that studies using B-12 supplements found a decrease in depressive symptoms.
Foods and Substances to Avoid
The DBSA notes that people with depression should carefully monitor their intake of fats, sugar and salts. In addition, they note that people with depression should limit their use of alcohol, as alcohol acts as a nervous system depressant and can contribute to depression. Stimulants such as caffeine can create a temporary boost in mood, but once the chemical is processd through the body, an individual may experience a depressed mood.
Proper Intake of Food and Fluids
The DBSA encourages people with depression to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, such as grains, proteins, vegetables and fruits. They caution against crash diets or skipping meals, which can lower blood sugar and essential nutrients, causing depressed mood. They also caution against over-eating and recommend that individuals who experience weight changes due to depression seek the support of a therapist, medical doctor or nutritionist.