There is no doubt that there is a close relationship between food and mental health. So much so that nutrition is one of the relevant factors in depression. Healthy fats play a fundamental role, contributing not only to good physical functioning but also to the proper functioning of our brain. We will see below what is all its benefits and why we should incorporate them into our diet.
It is more than proven that our brain so that it can function optimally, needs a series of important nutrients that come from a correct diet. If the contribution is insufficient or deficient, due to poor quality of nutrients, this can influence the good brain functioning, to the point of being able to trigger psychopathology such as depression.
It is convenient to know what kind of foods are those that participate and influence our brain at the beginning of depression or its maintenance. There is an obvious relationship, which has been demonstrated by researchers, regarding the consumption of fast food and processed food with an increased risk of suffering from depression.
Conversely, the healthy fats that we can find in a multitude of foods, help us to avoid considerably the risk of suffering from depression. Scientific evidence has shown over the years that healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, contribute to the treatment of depression. Also, numerous experimental studies have shown how low diets in omega-3 are related to significant disturbances in neuronal function. Then we will see why this happens, to know the causes that lead to healthy fats to be our partners for the maintenance of good mental health.
Omega-3 fatty acids and depression
Surely you have already heard a lot about omega-3 fatty acids or also called good and healthy fats. Much research has been done about its benefits in our health in general, and some really surprising results have been found, such as the relationship they have even in good mental health. Omega-3 is known primarily for its beneficial properties in reducing cholesterol. Although it has many more benefits as we will see throughout this article.
Why do omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of depression? The answer lies in its function as stimulants of neurogenesis, reducing the activity of neuronal oxidation and regulating the pro-inflammatory process. After this finding has been proven as an increase in saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids, along with a decrease in healthy fats, or omega-3 fats, has a great correlation with depression. This does not mean that you do not have to eat foods that contain omega-6, what is convenient in any case is that there is no decompensation, because in our Western diet we tend to feed more with this type of fat, reducing the consumption of healthy fats. The important thing is that there is a balance between our consumption of omega-3 and omega-6. Since they are essential for the proper functioning of our body.
Omega-3 has been used for years as secondary prevention in several psychopathologies, due to its good tolerance and acceptance. An effective response was also demonstrated in pregnant women with depression, compared to the general population.
The omega-3 fatty acids are divided into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). The main sources of this healthy and essential fats are foods such as fish, some vegetable oils, nuts; such as nuts, seeds like chia and fruits like avocado.
Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the risk of developing senile dementia; especially the DHA, since they can slow down the process, strengthening the telomeres and preventing the appearance of certain diseases. Among its benefits, it also highlights its contribution to the reduction of insomnia and disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Relationship between diet and depression
In our diet, only good fats contribute to reducing the risk of depression? The relationship between certain vitamins and the benefits they have for our mental health has been studied a lot. The most researched so far have been vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folic acid.
According to researchers, vitamin B6 is of great importance for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin (one of the hormones considered as the happiness hormone). So it is considered that a deficiency of this vitamin or the inability of the body to process it correctly can be a factor that contributes to an increased risk of suffering from depression.
Minerals essential for the proper functioning of our organisms such as selenium, mutagenesis, and zinc, have also aroused great interest in research on depression. Zinc is the most remarkable mineral since it has been shown that zinc levels are lower in people who are diagnosed with clinical depression. They have also shown that oral zinc intake increases the effectiveness of antidepressant therapy. Taking zinc supplements is beneficial either in isolation or as an adjunct to drug therapy against depression.
Essential amino acids such as tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine have also been investigated for their relationship with depression. It has been demonstrated that these amino acids are useful in antidepressant treatment. This occurs because of the dependence that the brain has structurally and functionally on these nutrients.
As we can see, there is a clear relationship between the nutrients in the food we eat and the risk of suffering from depression. Healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids have been the most researched. Offering results that deserve to be taken into consideration. We can not ignore the fact that healthy fats benefit us in many aspects, including mental health.