Will Changing My Diet Affect My Depression?
By Bobbie Hasselbring
How to Be Sure You Are Eating a Healthy Diet A healthy diet is one that:
- includes a variety of foods
- includes fresh foods
- limits caffeine
- avoids alcohol
- uses the Food Guide Pyramid as a model
Experts aren't sure exactly how diet impacts depression, but they know that poor nutrition can contribute to health problems, including mental health problems. They also know that people who are depressed often develop bad eating habits.
Some people find that what they eat plays a big part in how they feel. For example, sugar makes some people irritable or fatigued. Too much caffeine makes some people anxious or interferes with their sleep. Some nutritional experts believe that diet can impact the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.
How to Eat Healthfully
To ensure that you're eating healthy foods, follow these guidelines:
- Eat a variety of foods. This helps you get all the nutrients your body needs.
- Eat fresh foods. Highly processed foods are often high in fat, sugar, and salt.
- Limit caffeine. Too much caffeine (more than 225 mg., or 2 cups of brewed coffee or 4 cans of cola) can interfere with antidepressant medications. For instance, too much caffeine can cause irregular heartbeat and an increase in blood pressure if you're taking MAOI medications. Caffeine can also increase anxiety and restlessness in people taking SSRIs and decrease the effectiveness of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can block the effects of antidepressants. MAOIs can have a very dangerous reaction when mixed with alcohol. TCAs and alcohol can be a dangerous combination because the medication increases the effects of alcohol. If you're taking antidepressants, you should avoid alcohol entirely.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet based on the Food Guide Pyramid. The Food Guide Pyramid describes how much food from each food group you should eat every day. When you follow the Food Guide Pyramid, you're eating a variety of foods. This helps ensure that you're getting all of the nutrients you need. The key is to fill up on foods from the base of the pyramid - breads, grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and are full of complex carbohydrates. These are low-fat foods that are good for you and can help stabilize your moods.
How to Eat Smart Using the Food Guide Pyramid
- Fats and sweets: Eat only small amounts of these foods.
- Dairy: Eat 2 or 3 servings of foods such as low-fat or skim milk, cheese, and yogurt every day.
- Protein: Eat 2 or 3 servings of lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds every day.
- Fruits: Eat 2 to 4 servings of fresh fruits daily.
- Vegetables: Eat 3 to 5 servings of fresh vegetables every day.
- Grains: Eat 6 to 11 servings of whole grain bread, cereal, rice, or pasta every day.