In honor of National Nutrition Month, we though it might be interesting to take a closer look at how eating better can affect our mental health, particularly depression as we age. According to a study conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), eating more fruits and vegetables each day can help us improve our thinking skills, reduce symptoms of feeling depressed, and lower our chances of becoming depressed later in life. So what nutrients can lower our chances of becoming depressed and how can you add more fruits and vegetables to your diet?
According the AND study, certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can help defend against the negative affects of oxidative stress and inflammation, which have been associated with depression. When we don’t get enough of certain vitamins and minerals, our bodies have a hard time fighting off the stress and inflammation in our bodies that is caused by diseases, lifestyle, and our environment. Some of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found to be of particular help for reducing depression include: potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), and the mighty antioxidants: vitamins C and E, selenium and beta-carotene.
So how can you squeeze in more fruits and vegetables each day and reduce your risk of depression? According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, Women and men aged 31 and older should consume at least 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day. Enjoy 1 small banana, a medium apple and 1/2 cup of 100% apple juice and you have your recommended fruit servings for the day. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed. Women and men aged 31 and older should aim for 2 1/2 to 3 Cups of vegetables each day. Snack on carrots and hummus and include 1 cup of vegetables, such as corn and broccoli at lunch and dinner, and you just consumed your recommended daily servings of vegetables! We are so lucky to have access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables year-round here in Florida! Load up on locally-grown fruits and veggies at your community’s farmer’s market or better yet, start your own garden! Challenge yourself to increase your servings of fruits and vegetables each day, not only for your general health but for your mental health too!
1. Fruit, Vegetable, and Antioxidant Intakes are Lower in Older Adults with Depression, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, December 2012. Matha E. Payne, Susan E. Steck, Rebecca R. George, David, Steffins.
About the author: Jennifer Beery is a full-time nutrition and dietetics student, wife, and part-time office administrative assistant who is passionate about health and wellness but also struggles with getting it all in each day. Her blog, http://platespantriesandpinot.blogspot.com offers easy meal planning, smart shopping, safe food storage, and general healthy lifestyle tips for busy families like hers.