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How food can help fight depression

The January White Campaign is dedicated to mental health and depression, a mental disorder caused by sadness and a lack of interest. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it the “disease of the century” and affects 322 million people worldwide.

In Brazil, depression affects 5.8% of the population, being the second country in the Americas most affected by the disease, and according to the World Health Organization, in 2030 it will be the most common disease in the world. It is the fourth leading cause of disability and costs the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity. The exact cause is still unknown, but it is multifactorial. There are geographical, biological and genetic determinants. If your parents had depression, you have a 75% chance of developing the same illness. In addition, behavioral factors and food also influence. In Brazil, it reaches 5.8 of the population.

Symptoms of depression are deep sadness that lasts for more than two weeks, prostration, pessimism, loss of interest or pleasure in life, lack of motivation, change in sleep, appetite, sexual disturbances, lack of will and hesitation, frustration, and fatigue. , lack of concentration, low self-esteem, general sluggishness and suicidal thoughts.

Depression is the leading cause of suicide and is among the top 20 causes of death worldwide. It can go unnoticed and suffer prejudice for not being visible, being a real social stigma. A depressed person can be considered mentally weak.

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We know that nutrition is a great ally in treating and preventing this disease. Proper eating patterns prevent, reduce severity, and reduce the frequency of depressive episodes. More and more studies are showing the connection between what we eat and mental health. Psychiatric disorders are associated with chronic systemic inflammation, so an inflammatory diet, such as fast food and foods high in calories and poor in nutrients, can help trigger and/or exacerbate the condition. On the other hand, a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet helps build up the gut microbiota, which plays an important role in modulating depression. It also helps regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

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According to a study by University College London, consuming dark chocolate, in a 30-gram portion twice a day, reduces the chances of depression by 70%. Flavonoids, which are antioxidants found in chocolate, improve inflammatory profiles and have a positive effect on mental health. Consuming chocolate, as a pleasurable experience, stimulates neurotransmitters involved in reward pathways and mood regulation, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.

The diet should be as healthy and natural as possible. Therefore, we must consume foods rich in magnesium such as chestnuts, almonds, bananas, avocados, brown rice, and pumpkin seeds. B-complex vitamins, such as kale, spinach, chicken, peaches, and watermelon, as well as foods rich in folic acid. Namely, fresh leaves and raw vegetables are rich in omega-3s and tryptophan; Such as fish, eggs, nuts, avocados, broccoli, peanuts, peas, bananas, and oatmeal. Foods rich in zinc are oysters, chestnuts, and whole grains.

And what will we avoid?

Sugar, abuse of alcoholic beverages and foods containing trans fats such as ice cream, cookies, instant noodles, microwave popcorn, margarine and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, salami, sausage and ham. Ultra-processed foods, such as soft drinks, industrial juices, hot dogs, and fast food in general. It is also worth remembering the importance of physical activity in combating depression. Exercise increases the release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that provide a sense of well-being, thus becoming a powerful ally in the fight against disease.