Mediterranean Diet Foundation                                Eating a Mediterranean Diet could help prevent and treat depression and anxiety.

Mediterranean Diet Foundation Eating a Mediterranean Diet could help prevent and treat depression and anxiety.

Want your holidays to be happier? Try eating more healthfully

Studies show that healthy eating could lower your risk of depression by as much as 30%.

What can you do to help make your holidays brighter and happier? Start by eating better.

That means eating foods that not only are good for you, but foods that make you feel good.

Emerging research is telling us that what we eat during the holidays — and throughout the year — can make a big difference in our mood. Eating well may even be able to help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. These new findings are paving the way for a burgeoning new field called nutritional psychiatry. Dr. Drew Ramsey, a psychiatrist in New York City, coined this new phrase and is a pioneer in this field.

The first-ever clinical study on food’s effects on mood disorders and depression was published last year in the World Journal of Psychiatry. The study indicates that the quality of your food directly relates to your risk of depression and other mental health disorders, just as it influences your risk for heart disease and cancer.

Ramsey, along with his colleagues, has developed an antidepressant food score that identifies essential nutrients they believe are crucial to preventing and promoting recovery from depression and other mood disorders. Those nutrients are iron, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, selenium, B vitamins like thiamine, folate, B6 and B12, vitamins A and C and the mineral zinc.

I’ll recommend some foods with those nutrients below.

In the last 10 years, research has expanded our understanding of omega 3 fatty acids and how they relate to health. Our brains are about 60 to 70% omega 3 fatty acids, specifically the docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. The levels of this powerful fatty acid in your brain tissue correlates directly with brain health and has been found to predict mental health disorders, depression and anxiety.

EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid, is another omega 3 fatty acid that helps to fight inflammation in the brain and body. We have known the link between omega 3 fatty acids and brain health, and now studies are confirming its role in treating and preventing mental health disorders.

Several other studies in recent years have suggested that highly processed and refined foods, especially carbohydrates, could increase the risk of depression. Other studies correlate healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean Diet, with lowering risk of depression by as much as 30%.

What foods can help you prevent the blues this holiday season and help you feel better all year long? Here’s your go-to list. Add them to your plate and enjoy your happiest holiday ever.

• Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy ones, every day. Aim for 7-8 servings.

• Add healthy fats to your meals such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, nut oils or canola oil. Avoid saturated fats from animal products.

• Eat more fish and seafood to increase your omega 3 fatty acids. Don’t like fish or seafood? Take a supplement.

Contact a registered dietitian nutritionist to assess your diet and get expert advice.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach, founder of Total Health and author of “Reducing Blood Pressure for Beginners: A Cookbook for Eating and Living Well.” Visit www.totalhealthrd.com or www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition for more. Follow her on Twitter @healthrd. Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.

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