By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Clinical depression is a mental health condition that affects moods, thoughts and behaviour. Common symptoms include elongated bouts of sadness or lack of purpose, lack of motivation to do things you normally like to do, moodiness, irritability, frustration, spending less time with friends and family, sleep disturbances, fatigue, aches and pains, slowing down of thoughts and actions and uncontrollable crying. Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses. In Australia on average, one in six people will experience depression in their lifetime.
When you’re struggling with depressive symptoms, maintaining good eating habits can be difficult; this is the time when many people will reach for the comfort foods that are high in refined, processed sugar, refined carbohydrates and fat. These foods will contribute to fatigue, further aggravate poor mood and cause irregular blood sugar levels, this will then increase your cravings for more junk food and you will be more likely to reach for quick pick-me-up foods and the pattern continues.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reported that individuals eating a diet rich in whole foods were less likely to report feelings of depression than those who ate lots of desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products. After 5 years, the study determined that a processed food dietary eating pattern is a risk factor for depression, whereas a whole food eating pattern is a protective measure for depression.
The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet with high intakes of fruits and vegetables was associated with fewer depressive symptoms. The study contributed these results to a cumulative effort of the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables as well as the omega-3 fatty acids in fish.
Another interesting fact, a person suffering with depression can show high blood levels of homocysteine, this amino acid can interfere with depression recovery and it is also endangers the heart. Folic acid helps minimize homocysteine levels, so eating enough folate rich foods may have an antidepressant effect. When a person is low in folate they can have an increased risk of depression, insomnia and mental fatigue. To get enough folic acid, eat or drink raw dark, green leafy and colourful vegetables and include nuts, seeds, sprouts and legumes.
Although folate has had a special mention, the most important take home message to help improve depressive symptoms is to incorporate a variety of colourful, fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Fruits and vegetables deepest in colour tend to offer the most nutritional value, so we suggest consuming berries, citrus fruits, bananas, figs, melons, tomatoes, leafy and dark greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green beans, beetroot (beets) and colourful peppers just to name a few.
Consuming these foods raw ensures that you are getting all the nutrients intact; one of the many amazing benefits of juicing. So really we could say juicing makes us happy! ☺