The Salt – There’s fresh evidence that eating a healthy diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits highly processed foods, can help reduce symptoms of depression.
A randomized controlled trial published in the journal PLOS ONE finds that symptoms of depression dropped significantly among a group of young adults after they followed a Mediterranean-style pattern of eating for three weeks.
Participants saw their depression “score” fall from the “moderate” range down to the “normal” range, and they reported lower levels of anxiety and stress too.
Alternatively, the depression scores among the control group of participants — who didn’t change their diets — didn’t budge.
These participants continued to eat a diet higher in refined carbohydrates, processed foods and sugary foods and beverages. Their depression scores remained in the “moderate severity” range.
Scientists are learning more about how a poor diet can increase inflammation, and this can be one risk factor for depression.
“Highly processed foods increase inflammation,” Francis said. What’s more, “if we don’t consume enough nutrient-dense foods, then this can lead to insufficiencies in nutrients, which also increases inflammation,” she said.
In this study, participants in the “healthy eating” arm of the study ate about six more servings of fruits and vegetables per week, compared with the control group.
Participants “who had a greater increase in fruit and vegetable intake showed the greatest improvement in depression symptoms,” Francis said.
“We were quite surprised by the findings,” researcher Heather Francis, a lecturer in clinical neuropsychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, told NPR via email.
“I think the next step is to demonstrate the physiological mechanism underlying how diet can improve depression symptoms,” Francis said.
Participants were also instructed to increase consumption of whole grains to a recommended three servings per day, as well as three servings per day of protein from lean meats … Read more.