There is a bit of doubt about the close relationship between diet 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 our brain’s proper functioning. We will see below what all its benefits are and why it is convenient to incorporate them into our diet.
It is already more than proven that our brain, for it to function optimally, needs a series of essential nutrients from a correct diet. Suppose the contribution is insufficient or deficient due to the low quality of nutrients. In that case, this can influence useful brain function, to the point of being able to trigger psychopathology such as depression.
It is convenient for us to know what kinds of foods participate and influence our brain in the onset of depression or its maintenance. There is an evident relationship, which has been demonstrated, in terms of the consumption of fast food and processed food with an increased risk of depression.
On the contrary, the healthy fats that we can find in many foods help us considerably avoid the risk of suffering from depression. Scientific evidence has shown over the years that healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, even contribute to the treatment of depression. Numerous experimental studies have also demonstrated how low omega-3 diets are related to significant disturbances in neuronal function. Next, we will see why this happens, to know the causes that lead to healthy fats to be our allies for maintaining good mental health.
Omega-3 fatty acids and depression
You must hear of omega-3 fatty acids or also called excellent and healthy fats. There is a lot of research on its benefits on our overall health, and really surprising results have been found, such as the relationship they have even with good mental health. Omega-3 is known above all for its beneficial properties to lower cholesterol. However, 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 their function as neurogenesis stimulants, reducing neuronal oxidation activity and regulating the pro-inflammatory process. After this finding, an increase in saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids, along with a decrease in healthy fats, or omega-3 fats, has been shown to have a significant correlation with depression. This does not mean that you should not eat foods containing omega-6. It is convenient in any case that there is no decompensation since, in our western diet, we tend to feed ourselves 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.
Omega-3 has been used for years as secondary prevention in various psychopathologies due to its good tolerance and acceptance. An effective response was also demonstrated in pregnant women with depression compared to the general population.
Omega-3 fatty acids are divided into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The primary sources of these healthy and essential fats are fish, some vegetable oils, nuts, nuts, seeds like chia, and fruits like avocado.
Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the risk of senile dementia, especially DHA, since they can slow down the process, strengthening telomeres and preventing the appearance of certain diseases. Its benefits also include its contribution to the reduction of insomnia and disorders such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Relationship between diet and depression
Do only good fats in our diet help reduce the risk of depression? The relationship that specific vitamins have with the benefits they bring us 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 the researchers, vitamin B6 is of great importance for converting tryptophan into serotonin (one of the hormones considered the hormone of happiness). Therefore, it is believed that a deficiency of this vitamin or the body’s inability to process it correctly can be a factor that contributes to an increased risk of suffering from depression.
Essential minerals such as selenium, magnesium, and zinc have also aroused great interest in research on depression. Zinc is the most notable mineral, as zinc levels are lower in people diagnosed with clinical depression. They have also shown that an oral intake of zinc increases the effectiveness of antidepressant therapy. Taking zinc supplements is beneficial either in isolation or as a complement to drug therapy for depression.
Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids have garnered the most research. Offering results that well deserve that we consider them. We cannot ignore the fact that healthy fats benefit us in many ways, including mental health.