[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Depression affects more than 21 million Americans each year. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals between the ages 15 and 44. Sudden changes, stress, illness or any of various life events can spur depressions. The good news is that studies show that a healthy diet may significantly reduce the risk of severe depression.
Research at the University of Eastern Finland included over 2,000 middle-aged or older men who were tracked for an average of 13 years. They found that those following a healthy diet have a much lower risk for depression. In Spain, scientists from the Universities of Las Palmas and Navarra studied a group of 10,094 individuals over four years, and found that those who followed a classic Mediterranean diet were 30 per cent less likely to develop depression. Researchers from University College, London who studied 3,486 civil servants over five years had the same results. It is thought that while different aspects of the diet may have specific benefits, it is the combined effect of a well-rounded healthy diet that has a biggest impact on mood.
In addition to the benefits of a healthy diet, a study by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute that included 265,000 people between the ages of 50 and 71 found that those who consumed over four cans or cups of soda per day were 30 per cent more likely to develop depression, in comparison with those who didn’t drink soda!
The Mediterranean diet in the Spanish and British studies consists of legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, veggies and fish. It is lower in meat; alcohol and dairy consumption is moderate. It uses olive oil rather than butter, which many believe is an important a factor in the reduced risk.
It’s important to note that the Finnish study did not use the Mediterranean diet, but found that a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, berries, whole-grains, poultry, fish and low-fat cheese was also associated with a significantly lower risk for depressive symptoms.
You have a cornucopia of options when designing your nutrition regimen, so make it one that you will enjoy! Whichever dietary model you choose to follow, be sure to include plenty of antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals! Keep in mind, junk food, sugar and processed meats may actually increase depressive symptoms!
Protect yourself with a trip to your local produce market… you really will be happier!
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