Using Nutrition to Prevent Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

 

In recent years, research has shown that depression and anxiety share a relationship with inflammation and oxidative stress.

·         Inflammation is a natural process that helps the body fight illness and infection. If prolonged, however, it can lead to internal tissue damage and chronic diseases.

·         Oxidative stress is another natural process in the body. Reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, are a by-product of aerobic cellular respiration. In excess, these free radicals start to break down cells causing larger tissue damage.

Ultimately, this boils to down to diet and nutrition. Frequently eating bad foods puts the body under great stress and the body responds through inflammation. When not enough fruits and vegetables are consumed, there is an imbalance, or rather lack, of anti-oxidants to free radicals leading to oxidative stress. Western-style (American) diets typically consist of highly processed, sugary, greasy, nutrition-deprived food products that lead to higher rates of inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as a slew of other physiological issues.

Natural foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish contain anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Recent research suggests that having a well-rounded diet in these anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich foods will help combat symptoms of anxiety and depression.

So what foods should I be eating?

While any diet program should be adjusted to fit individual needs (daily activity, allergies, food preferences, etc.), the Mediterranean Diet is considered the best in preventing symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is mostly due to its abundance of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant foods, as well as its high focus on natural products full of important vitamins and minerals.

What does the Mediterranean Diet look like?

It consists of a healthy balance of foods such as:

  • Whole Grains
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Organically raised animal products, particularly fish
  • Oils containing essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • A rainbow of fruits and vegetables

Daily Dietary Recommendations for a Mediterranean-Style Diet

All dietary recommendations come from USDA guidelines. Recommendations are based off a 2000-calorie diet. Those with calorie intakes below or above 2000 should adjust accordingly. Information regarding these adjusted values may be found within the UDSA website.

Food Types

Recommended Daily Intakes

Oils containing essential fatty acids

27 grams (1 oz or 2 tablespoons)

Fruits (variety of colors and types)

2.5 cups-eq (20 oz or 567 g)

Vegetables

2.5 cups-eq (20 oz or 567 g)

Whole Grains

6 ounces-eq (0.75 cups or 170 g)

Protein Foods (foods that contain higher amounts of protein)

6.5 ounces-eq (0.8 cups or 184 g)

Dairy/non-dairy foods containing sufficient calcium (the recommended amount of calcium per day for those 19 and older is 1000mg; those 17-18 typically need around 1300mg)

 

2 cups-eq (16 oz or 454 g)

*eq = equivalent to the recommended value; oz = ounces; g = grams

USDA Weekly Dietary Recommendations for Vegetables and Protein for a Mediterranean-Style Diet

All dietary recommendations come from USDA guidelines. Recommendations are based off a 2000-calorie diet. Those with calorie intakes below or above 2000 should adjust accordingly. Information regarding these adjusted values may be found within the UDSA website.

Food Types

Weekly Recommended Intakes

Vegetables

·         Dark-green

·         Red/orange

·         Beans and peas

·         Starchy

·         Other

 

 

1.5 cups-eq (12 oz or 340 g)

5.5 cups-eq (44 oz or 1,247 g)

1.5 cups-eq (12 oz or 340 g

5 cups-eq (40 oz or 1,134 g)

4 cups-eq (32 oz or 907 g)

 

Protein

·         Meat, poultry, eggs

·         Fish

·         Nuts, seeds, soy products

 

 

26 ounces-eq (737 g)

15 ounces-eq (425 g)

5 ounces-eq (0.625 cups or 142 g)

 

*eq = equivalent to the recommended value; oz = ounces; g = grams

Example Equivalent Values for USDA Dietary Recommendations

Fruits and Vegetables

1 cup-equivalent is:

·         1 cup raw or cooked fruit or vegetable

·         1 cup fruit or vegetable juice

·         2 cups leafy salad greens

·         ½ cup dried fruit or vegetable

 

Whole Grains

1 ounce-equivalent is:

·         ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal

·         1 ounce dry pasta or rice

·         1 medium (1 ounce) slice bread

·         1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal (about 1 cup of flaked cereal)

 

Protein Foods

1 ounce-equivalent is:

·         1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood

·         1 egg

·         ¼ cup cooked beans or tofu

·         1 tablespoon peanut butter

·         ½ ounce nuts or seeds

 

Dairy

1 cup-equivalent is:

·         1 cup milk, yogurt, or fortified soymilk

·         1½ ounces natural cheese

 

 

More examples of specific food equivalents may be found at choosemyplate.gov

Disclaimers:

1) No current research has proven that nutrition has a direct impact on clinically diagnosed depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Nutrition and diet only prevent the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, much of which is self-reported by the participants within the research studies. More studies must be conducted to prove direct links between a person’s diet and cases of depression and anxiety. Nonetheless, the current research is promising.

2) Always consult your primary healthcare provider before starting a new diet.

3) If you are experiencing mental health complications, please seek professional guidance.

4) Thrive!/Berea College does not endorse any particular diet program nor the USDA.

 

References

Altun, A., Brown, H., Szoeke, C., & Goodwill, A. M. (2019). The Mediterranean dietary pattern and depression risk: A systematic review. Neurology, Psychiatry and Brain Research, 33, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.npbr.2019.05.007

Black, C. N., Bot, M., Scheffer, P. G., Cuijpers, P., & Penninx, B. W.J.H. (2015). Is depression associated with increased oxidative stress? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 51, 164-175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.09.025

Forsyth, A., Deane, F. P., Williams, P. (2015). A lifestyle intervention for primary care patients with depression and anxiety: A randomised controlled trial. Psychiatry Research, 230(2), 537-544. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2015.10.001

Gibson-Smith, D., Bot, M., Brouwer, I. A., Visser, M., & Penninx B. W.J.H. (2018). Diet quality in persons with and without depressive and anxiety disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 106, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2018.09.006

Haghighatdoost, F., Feizi, A., Esmaillzadeh, A., Feinle-Bisset, C., Keshteli, A. H., Afshar, H., & Adibi, P. (2019). Association between the dietary inflammatory index and common mental health disorders profile scores. Clinical Nutrition, 38(4), 1643-1650. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.08.016

Hovatta, I., Juhila, J. & Donner, J. (2010). Oxidative stress in anxiety and comorbid disorders. Neuroscience Research, 68(4), 261-275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neures.2010.08.007

Molendijk, M., Molero, P., Sánchez-Pedreño, F. O., Van der Does, W., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2018). Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, 226, 346-354. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.09.022

Moniczewski, A., Gawlik, M., Smaga, I., Niedzielska, E., Krzek, J., Przegaliński, E., Pera, J., & Filip, M. (2015). Oxidative stress as an etiological factor and a potential treatment target of psychiatric disorders. Part 1. Chemical aspects and biological sources of oxidative stress in the brain. Pharmacological Reports, 67(3), 560-568. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pharep.2014.12.014

Null, G. & Pennesi, L. (2017) Diet and lifestyle intervention on chronic moderate to severe depression and anxiety and other chronic conditions. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 29, 189-193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.09.007

Ocean, N., Howley, P., & Ensor, J. (2019). Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being. Social Science & Medicine, 222, 2019, 335-345. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.12.017

Parletta, N., Zarnowiecki, D., Cho, J., Wilson, A., Bogomolova, S., Villani, A., Itsiopoulos, C., Niyonsenga, T., Blunden, S., Meyer, B., Segal, L., Baune B. T., & O’Dea, K. (2017). A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutritional Neuroscience22(7), 474-487. https://doi.org/10.1080/1028415X.2017.1411320

Phillips, C. M., Shivappa, N., Hébert, J. R., & Perry, I. J. (2018). Dietary inflammatory index and mental health: A cross-sectional analysis of the relationship with depressive symptoms, anxiety and well-being in adults. Clinical Nutrition, 37(5), 1485-1491. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2017.08.029

Sethiya, N. K., Trivedi, A. & Mishra, S. (2014). The total antioxidant content and radical scavenging investigation on 17 phytochemical from dietary plant sources used globally as functional food. Biomedicine & Preventive Nutrition, 4(3), 439-444. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bionut.2014.03.007

Smaga, I., Niedzielska, E., Gawlik, M., Moniczewski, A., Krzek, J., Przegaliński, E., Pera, J., & Filip, M. (2015). Oxidative stress as an etiological factor and a potential treatment target of psychiatric disorders. Part 2. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and autism. Pharmacological Reports, 67(3), 569-580. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pharep.2014.12.015

USDA Sources:

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

https://www.fns.usda.gov/usda-food-patterns

https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/usda_food_patterns/HealthyMediterranean-StylePattern-RecommendedIntakeAmounts.pdf