“In Australia, it’s estimated that 45 percent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety.” Beyond Blue
The impact of depression on both a personal and global level is hugely significant and far-reaching. Today, treatment options for depression include various medication prescribed by a doctor, various forms of therapy and self-care.
A recent article from Harvard Medical School detailed an overlooked aspect of self-care – diet. Diet and lifestyle factors have an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and mental health disorders, including depression, yet we sometimes pay more attention to medications and therapy as the go-to solutions for mental health outcomes .
We can see that diet impacts every aspect of our health and in particular, our mental health. So, we need to sit up and take notice! It isn’t merely about recovery but also prevention, and working towards living the best life you possibly can.
The 20th Century has seen our world, and subsequently, our eating habits change rapidly. From the introduction of high fructose corn syrup to processed and sugary foods being more readily available, we can see a sharp decline in the consumption of good-quality, nutrient-dense, natural, whole foods. We are living a fast-life with fast-food becoming a norm. Rushed eating, readily available (cheaper) processed options and an unawareness of the impact of a healthy diet have led to this growing reliance on fast-food.
Several recent research analyses examining multiple studies support this link between diet and the risk of depression.
“A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.” 
The impact of diet can impact more than just the individual. A recent study of more than 20,000 mothers and their children found that the children of mothers who ate an unhealthier diet during their pregnancy had a higher level of behaviours that are linked to mental disorders.
It is essential to view diet as a key element in the prevention of mental illness.
– Eat an abundance of fruits, veggies, whole grains (in unprocessed form), seeds and nuts.
– Add in some lean proteins like fish and unsweetened yoghurt.
– Avoid added sugars or flours (like bread, baked goods, cereals, and pasta).
– Minimise animal fats and processed meats.
Remember moderation and quality are essential!