Mediterranean diet combats depression?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Or should we say the butter or the olive oil?
Junk food or depression?
We might want to think about the food, according to the Center for Population Research in South Australia.
The organization randomly assigned 152 individuals with depression into two groups: one a control group with a very active support group, and another into a group which received the Mediterranean diet.
Checking back in three months and six months, they found that the group on the Mediterranean diet had a 45 percent improvement in their rating scales, compared with about a 27 percent improvement in the control group.
As a reminder, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, using olive oil and canola oil instead of butter, and herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
The Mediterranean diet apparently stuck with participants in that group, who were found to be eating more fish and vegetables, and less red meat, confections and processed foods.
But what about the flip side?
According to the journal Public Health Nutrition, a study from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, you’re 51 percent more likely to develop depression if you eat fast food than if you eat little to none.
Researchers followed nearly 9,000 participants who had never been diagnosed with depression or taken antidepressants for six months, and found increased depression.
“Junk food” was defined as commercial baked goods like cakes, croissants or doughnuts, and fast food like hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza.
But did the food cause the depression, or was it the other way around?
People who eat fast food are more likely to be single, less active and have poor dietary habits, such as eating less fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables or olive oil. Depressed people are also more likely to be smokers and work more than 45 hours a week, according to the study.
Fortunately, healthy food is becoming more convenient, thanks to bagged salads, roasted nuts, canned tune, frozen fruit, nut butters, tomato sauce, etc.
Research shows nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, magnesium and zink have all been linked to lower depression, possibly because they help create neurotransmitters.
Other healthy foods are those rich in B-vitamins and folic acid, such as lentils, bean, spinach, oranges, asparagus, avocado, seeds, tomatoes and fortified cereals. And don’t forget the sun itself, which besides being the top source of vitamin D, is a proven mood-enhancer.
Feeling down or not, it’s always a good idea, when we can, to skip the drive-through and head for the produce aisle and then home to our kitchen.