A healthy diet nourishes both your body and your mind. That was the conclusion of the “SMILES” trial, which was published by BMC Medicine. Poor food choices have been linked to mood disorders in the past, but this small study investigated how food can actually be used therapeutically to treat patients more effectively than traditional interventions such as antidepressants and psychotherapy.
The study focused on a group of men and women who subsisted almost entirely on ultra-processed foods and were diagnosed with depression. After taking a basic depression screening test to set their baseline score, the 67 subjects were split into two groups. Half of them were transitioned to a healthier diet, which consisted of items such as grass fed beef, eggs, fruits, fatty fish and vegetables. The other half continued to eat the same low quality foods as they had before the study.
After three months, a common depression scale was used to compare their depression symptoms before and after the dietary intervention. In the group eating healthier food, nearly a third scored scores so low that they no longer would be considered clinically depressed. Their scores improved an average of 11 points. The group that continued to eat the standard ultra-processed diet improved an average of only 4 points on the test and only 8 percent improved enough to no longer be considered clinically depressed.
The results of this study strongly demonstrated that even diagnosed depression can be effectively addressed with a healthy diet, and it achieves this end without the risky side effects of antidepressants. A healthier diet also reduces inflammation, fights obesity and is generally acknowledged as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.
Of course not all “healthy” diets are created equal. Implementing a cyclical Ketogenic Diet, high in healthy fats, low in net carbs with moderate amounts of protein. This kind of diet will optimize your mitochondrial function, which has significant implications for mental health. In fact, one noticeable effect of nutritional ketosis is mental clarity and a sense of calm. The reason for this welcome side effect has to do with the fact that when your body is able to burn fat for fuel, ketones are created, which is the preferred fuel for your brain.
If the Ketogenic Diet is not a viable option for you, the Mediterranean diet is also extremely effective when compared to the standard ultra-processed diet that so many Americans follow.
Intermittent fasting will also help optimize your brain function and prevent neurological problems by activating your body’s fat-burning mode, preventing insulin resistance and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, the latter of which has been identified as a causative factor in depression.