How Eating a Vegan Diet Can Help Fight Depression

By: Michele Wolfson

With cold weather upon us, it's easy to suffer from the winter blues. Depression is becoming increasingly common, but often goes away with natural therapies. Even though how we feel has a lot to do with external issues, it can also be dramatically affected by our biochemistry. Changing up your dietary habits may drastically help to change your mood from sad to glad.

When it comes to depression, your choice of diet can wreak havoc on your health. Scientists recently declared that vegetarians are much less likely to develop cancer and depression. For the five per cent of the population who are vegetarian, that is good news indeed. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Melbourne in Australia, women who consumed a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality proteins were 30 percent less likely to suffer from major depression, dysthymia (a milder form of chronic depression) and anxiety disorders compared to those who ate a Western diet consisting of processed foods high in refined sugars and saturated fats. The study also found a 50 percent increased likelihood of depression in those consuming a Western diet.

It's common for kids to push their broccoli aside, but our youth needs to know how vital it is to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal and we need to lead by example. Foods that are high in beta-carotene and vitamin C have been thought to lower depression and increase brain productivity.  Consuming vegetables like broccoli, spinach, collard greens and carrots and fruits such as blueberries, oranges, strawberries and apricots on a daily basis can be a natural way to cure depression.

The important nutrients to have in your diet when it comes to preventing depression are high quality vegetable proteins and whole grains, B12 and omega-3s. When it comes to whole grains, choose less conventional carbs that are often packed with delicious, complex, nutty flavors that are unrefined and unprocessed. Study shows that amino acid tyrosine may boost levels of dopamine in the brain, helping you to concentrate and feel more alert. Good sources of tyrosine for vegetarians and vegans include high quality soy products such as tofu, tempeh, as well as legumes and peas.

Critics of the vegetarian and vegan diets often claim that those who follow them aren't getting enough B12 and Omega 3s in their diets. It hasn't been proven that B12 can prevent depression, but there is strong evidence that not absorbing enough through your diet can lead to depression. Starting the day with a healthy cereal for breakfast is what the Vegan Society recommends for B12 fortification. As for Omega-3s, nuts such as walnuts as well as in flaxseed, canola and soybean oil and dark green leafy vegetables are the vegetarian and vegan answer.

If you're a meat and potatoes kind of person who also has problems with portion sizes, then chances are you're getting more fat and protein in your diet than your body needs. This lifestyle can lead to increased chances of depression and mood swings. An idea to see if this theory works is to take a 28-day challenge to go Vegan and do something that's good for your cholesterol level, your overall health - and the environment (since you'll be creating less animal waste).  Even if you aren't depressed, it's good to change your diet to one that is mostly plant based in order to prevent dealing with depression in the future. A healthy body is a healthy mind!

Photo: canonsnapper

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