Is your lunch making you depressed? What you’re eating may be the problem

Are you feeling constantly down at work, unable to shake off that feeling even when you are home? What you are eating could be a factor. We are taught to examine what’s going on in our heads when depression hits us. Less attention gets paid to what is going into our guts.

But a new Wall Street Journal report wants us to rethink this, highlighting recent studies that link depression to bad diets.

More fruits and vegetables can boost mental health

In a 2017 study, people with depression reported a six-month mood boost after changing their diets to a Mediterranean diet full of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, whole grains and without tons of red meat. “Dietary nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, polyunsaturated fats and amino acids – are essential for healthy brain structure and function,” the researchers at the University of South Australia, who led the study, noted.

“With the increased personal, societal and financial burden of chronic physical and mental illness, getting back to basics by promoting cooking skills and family/group meals could be such a simple yet powerful and empowering approach to healthcare and prevention.”

A separate study presented at this year’s American Academy of Neurology meeting backed up that a nutrition-based strategy is not only good at combating depression, but also at preventing it. In the study, older adults who ate more vegetable and fruits were less likely to get depressed.

What a healthy diet looks like

So you’re convinced and ready to overhaul your dietary lifestyle to join the happy Mediterranean people — here’s how to start. Start incorporating foods that are rich in vitamin B6, an ingredient needed to make the serotonin which keeps our moods in sync. Cabbage, sweet potatoes, bananas, and avocados have an abundance of this. Seek foods full of omega-3 fat like wild salmon that promote new brain cell growth. Cut back on your cow steaks and opt for more vitamin B6-foods like chicken and tuna.

Eating more avocados is not an instant path to happiness, but being more mindful of what you are putting in your body increases your self-awareness of what you are doing to your body each day. It increases your mindfulness, a habit proven by science to increase our resilience.

So, when you start paying attention to the desk lunches you are shoveling down your gullet, congratulate yourself — you are one step closer to changing your lifestyle overall.