(NaturalNews) It seems that these days more and more people in America suffer from depression, whether it is considered mild or severe. In fact, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, over 18 million people in America suffer from either Major Depressive Disorder or Dysthymic Disorder (mild but chronic depression) every year. Some people might simply attribute these numbers to the hectic lifestyle of many Americans and the daily stress they face, while others might believe that medical professionals are better at diagnosing the symptoms. However, considering the effects of the "Standard American Diet" (referred to as "SAD" for a reason), it's best not to dismiss diet's effect on one's mental state.
For one thing, a diet that consists of highly processed foods has been linked to depression. Some research has shown that an unhealthy diet lacking in fresh foods can increase one's risk for depression. A study conducted by the University College London suggested that a diet high in fruit, vegetables, and fish decreases a person's risk of depression.
However, there's more. Alcohol, while not strictly a food, is considered a depressant. Why? It slows the brain, and it can cause depression. More than that, Radford University says that alcohol can "cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and often aggression." People who experience depressive tendencies should avoid alcohol entirely.
Foods that contain sugar and caffeine may also lead to depression. According to Kansas State University, both sugar and caffeine are often used to increase alertness; the problem, though, is that a person will eventually "crash" because caffeine and sugar will raise blood sugar levels initially, but when those levels drop, depression can set in.
Other sources also cite the following foods as possibly contributing to or leading to depression:
Too much or too little fat in one's diet
Serotonin-lowering foods (such as eggs)
Foods thought to improve the symptoms of depression include foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (such as flaxseed) and foods rich in B vitamins. While other treatments (such as therapy) help depression as well, what a person eats should also be considered when treating depressive disorders. Eating unhealthy, processed, overly-refined foods has been shown to decrease one's sense of well being, so it's best for people to consider what's on their plate and how it affects their mental state in addition to their other forms of treatment.
Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101. Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.