Can you cure depression on a raw food diet?

Recently I was driving back from a social weekend away camping down the south coast of New South Wales and I reflected on how my mood had significantly improved in recent times (like the last few years).

Prior to this, even when life had been externally good (happily married, 2 kids, good job, house etc) I was often gripped by negative thoughts, self-critical voices and social anxiety.    I pushed myself to go out and be social, or used drugs (including alcohol) to assist in the process of luring me out of my shell.

And yet, here I was thriving in the company of many people I hadn’t seen for a long time, or had never met before.

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Here I was enjoying the company of others, asking about their lives, feeling confident in discussing my own, even singing when the opportunity presented itself at campfire karaoke!  All under the influence of nothing but fruit.

In fact, I have noticed that since eating a 100% raw vegan diet I have been initiating way more social opportunities.  This is peculiar to me since I harbored a lot of fear that being raw would impede my social life when I was eating cooked food.

The only factor I could put it down to was my change in diet from a standard western omnivorous diet, to a low-fat raw vegan diet based largely around raw fruits and vegetables.

What else I’ve noticed since changing my diet…

As soon as I added significantly more fruit to my diet (fruit for breakfast and lunch with a dinner of cooked steamed vegetables and whole grains) I noticed an immediate boost in my mood.  I had tons more energy to get things done and thus there was a corresponding feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.

When I went 100% low-fat raw vegan (with an emphasis on lots of carbohydrates from raw fruits and vegetables and minimal amounts of nuts and seeds) virtually all negative thoughts I had completely disappeared.  My tendency to use food to numb myself emotionally also disappeared and I felt really good about myself for most of the time.

The other thing I’ve noticed over the years is the virtual disappearance of all my symptoms of PMS, including the foul and testy mood I would get in preceding my period.

So, all this got me interested in the science…

What research had been done on mood and raw vegan diets?  What I found out was astonishing…

There have been stax of studies done on the relationship between mood and food and even a few on raw vegan diets and their affects on psychology and wellbeing.

Most of these studies show that people who experience low moods and depression are generally not eating nearly enough whole fruits and vegetables. And there seems to be a significant correlation between the amount of fruit and veggies you eat and how happy you are (3).

Researchers explain the link between fruits and veggies and mood in this way:  A lack of antioxidant intake from colourful fruits and veggies causes oxidative stress, brain problems, mood dips and depression.  (4). And Folate (found in green vegetables) has also been found to be extremely important for mood.  The less you have in your system, the more likely you are to be sad (5, 6).

Since happiness is such a subjective thing it can be hard to find the right research group on which to conduct a study on the effect of fruit and veggie consumption on mood.  Differing lifestyles can throw too many variables into the mix to be able to differentiate what is diet or lifestyle related in the results.

However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church community, have proven to be an excellent research group since they all share the same faith and similar lifestyles (abstinence from smoking and alcohol, regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle elements).

The Adventist Church promotes a vegetarian diet, but does not make it mandatory, so a good proportion consume vegetarian diets, while the rest are omnivores.  This being the case, researchers could easily observe the differences in effect that vegetarian and omnivorous diets had on mood.

If you want to read up on the research to find out how it was conducted, feel free (references are posted here).  The outcome, though, was very revealing.  Those who abstained from meat all reported having much less negative emotion, depression, stress, and anxiety than the omnivores amongst them (1).

But Why?

Well, it turns out that there’s a substance, found only in animal foods called arachidonic acid that is known to inflame the brain and may contribute to disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease (2).

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The inclusion of more plant foods in the diets of the vegetarians was also noted and thought that it may play a role in the mood/food connection.   Vegetarians are noted for having higher circulating concentrations of antioxidants and less oxidative stress than meat eaters, and this is a likely contributing factor to their happier moods.

So there you go….  It really does pay to eat whole fruits and vegetables if you want to be happy.

Our brains need 3 main things to thrive…

If you want to be happy you need to make sure you get enough…

1. Oxygen

2. Water

and

3. …Glucose – in fact the brain runs on a whopping 20% of the body’s glucose stores

Everything we eat is eventually converted to glucose in the body.  But the choices we make can either make this process efficient or laborious and energy sapping.

Converting proteins and fats to glucose requires huge amounts of digestive energy, which is why people on high protein, low carb diets often feel low in energy.

Even converting complex carbohydrates such as grains requires lots of digestive energy.

The simple sugars from fruits are converted almost effortlessly into fuel for the body and brain cells, which makes fruit the perfect food for humans.

And, as long as we eat a low-fat diet, these sugars will find their way effortlessly into our trillions of cells to do the job of repair, rebuilding and providing fuel.

Conclusion – If you’ve been suffering with crippling mood disorders, anxiety, depression, PMS and general patterns of negative thinking, it would definitely pay to give fruits and veggies a try.

The connection between what we eat and how we feel has been established time and time again.  And most of us know this intuitively.   But if you need help in sticking with a healthy diet then I’m here for you 100%.  Check out my coaching page for more information on how I work with others to achieve their best health ever.

For Article references, click here.

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Anthea Frances is an author, raw food health coach and host of the Raw Life Summit series.  Grab a copy of her free Balanced Raw Vegan Nutrition Checklist and start improving your health today!

cc image of Dandelion courtesy of Dawn Huczek at Flickr.com

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