Depression affects more than 150 million people worldwide, making it a leading cause of losing healthy life years as a result of a disability. By 2020, it’s estimated that depression may be the second leading cause of healthy years lost, second only to heart disease.
For those struggling with depression, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not your fault, and it’s not a flaw in your character. There are a variety of causes for depression, and there are also some surprisingly great ways to treat it.
Even if you eat “pretty good,” the Standard American Diet (SAD!) may very well be contributing to depression because it lacks the nutrients that our brains desperately need to fire properly. And, as depression takes hold, there is naturally less motivation to shop for and prepare healthy foods, which can result in grabbing convenient, highly processed “sugary” and “fried” foods for comfort, escalating the nutrient deficiency that deepens depression…
What a Vicious Cycle!
In a story from healthline.com, this is exactly what happened to a woman named Jane. A debilitating panic attack at age 14 led to her being diagnosed with anxiety and depression and being put on antidepressants. By the age of 23, after many doctors’ visits and therapy, she was told there was nothing more that could be done. Then, after having a meltdown in front of a nutritionist friend, she was introduced to the idea of trying to change her diet to see if it would make her feel better. Jane ate a somewhat healthy diet, but dinner typically involved unhealthy take-out options, and there was also candy throughout the day and ice cream at night. So, she followed the advice of her friend, which included less sugar and processed foods, and tripling her intake of fruit and vegetables.
Jane said for the first three days she thought she “was going to die.” But after a few days, her energy level began to soar and, “Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t eat, I began focusing on how great I felt physically, which made me feel better mentally and emotionally.” Plus, Jane added, “I stopped getting the crazy highs and lows from sugar. I haven’t had an anxiety attack in months and am completely off my antidepressants, which I 100 percent attribute to my diet and lifestyle changes.”
What Causes Depression?
Monoamines are neurotransmitters in our brains that help control the regulation of sleep, energy, appetite and mood. It is believed that people who are depressed have high levels of monoamine oxidase (MAO), an enzyme that inactivates “happy” neurotransmitters. The result can be abnormal adaptive responses to stress that can lead to depression.
To help with this, pharmaceutical companies have created medications that are MAO inhibitors. Meaning, they interrupt or stop the “oxidation” of monoamines in order to preserve these important neurotransmitters, so you feel better.
But, medications are NOT the only solution. Believe it or not, REAL food, specifically vegetables and fruits, are equally powerful at preserving these important neurotransmitters!
How Can Greens Fight the Blues?
Consuming high amounts of fruits and vegetables has been shown to cut the odds of developing depression by as much as 62%! Studies show that these “farmacological” phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables act as highly effective, natural MAO enzyme inhibitors:
Get Your Daily Dose for More Happiness!
A large study done in Great Britain found a dose–response relationship between daily servings of fruits and vegetables and life satisfaction and happiness, meaning more fruits and veggies meant more happiness.
Participants who got up to seven or eight servings a day reported the highest life satisfaction and happiness. And these associations remained significant even after controlling for factors such as income, illness, exercise, smoking, and body weight.
For many, an effective solution for fighting depression may be learning how to shop, buy and eat eight servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Here are some sure-fire ideas you can start today and you will be at eight servings a day in no time!
Soon you’ll be saying, “Eight or more servings of veggies and fruit a day? I GOT this!”
P.S. Looking for a speaker to address “Maximizing Your Mental Wellness” at an upcoming conference or employee program? I’d love to customize a perfect presentation or webinar that meets the needs of your organization. Contact me here.
Wondering about diet and dementia? Read Keep Your Mind Sharp and Prevent Alzheimer’s.