Nearly 1 in 4 Americans have some type of mental illness. The CDC says that by 2020, depression will rank as the second leading cause of disability, after heart disease. For this reason, the talk around town has more increasingly veered in the lane of improving mental health: how to reduce the stigmas associated with it, common risk factors, and what we all should do to ensure we stay mind-, body-, and spirit-healthy. Now we know there is evidence that suggests a direct and proven correlation between mental health and what we eat.
The idea of nutritional psychiatry was barely on the healthcare radar just a few years ago, and while there had been a few studies examining how certain supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids) might balance mood, supporting data was still lacking. Fast forward to 2018, and there now exists a broad spectrum of studies identifying diet as being as important to mental health as it is to physical health.
Better diet produces better mental health
Eating less unhealthy junk and processed foods can be an effective treatment strategy for depression and other mental health conditions. Save sweet and fatty foods for special occasions or treats instead to lower your risk for depression. Multiple studies conducted by Psychiatry Research and the American Journal of Psychiatry found the following:
- People who eat a diet high in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish and unsaturated fats (like olive oil) are up to 35% less likely to develop depression than people who eat less of these foods.
You are what you eat
Below are food groups you should seek out to promote mental health.
- Fruits & vegetables
- Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans
- Whole grains: rice, quinoa, oats, bread
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, a healthy diet should work adjacent to other treatments recommended by your doctor. People who have not been diagnosed, however, should certainly adopt a healthy eating plan to decrease their risk for depression.
Healthy eating does not have to break the bank; if you’re unsure of where to start, check out Fresh Meal Plan to browse through meal delivery options that are healthy, convenient, and tailored to fit any lifestyle.