There are over 800,000 suicide cases as a result of Depression every year in the world. Depression is obviously a global public health problem that needs to be addressed. In Nigeria, about 3.9% of Nigerians have suffered depression. This is roughly about 7 million people according to a 2015 World Health Organization estimate. This is 2017 and the numbers would have increased if nothing has been done to address the situation. 7 million is a statistic but there are very human faces behind this number. These are people we know, work with, our loved ones, even strangers. They are all around us. Many of those who experience depression do not talk about it; they hold it in till it becomes a big problem.
Every other day, we read about someone who has taken his life because of a certain situation and we talk about it but we do not know how to deal with it or even recognize it before the sad occurrence happens. Depression is described by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, restlessness, indecisiveness and poor concentration. It can be a long-lasting feeling or something that happens periodically. And it affects people’s abilities to function at their school, work or even cope with ordinary daily life. Eventually depression leads to self-harm or suicide.
The theme of this year’s world health day is Depression: Let’s talk. Let us talk about what each one of us can do to help someone who has depression.
As a nutritionist, I have looked at some foods that research has shown to help in improving our mental health. Certain foods help us build resilience against the everyday mental and physical stressor.
- Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fishes, olive oil and cod liver oil. These days there are supplements also that contain them. Evidence from research shows that adequate consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (Docosahexanoic Acid DHA and Eicosapentanoic Acid EPA) may lead to lower rates of depression.
- Foods containing Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in some protein rich foods like soybeans, plain yoghurt, milk, eggs, nuts, pumpkin, turkey and red meat.
Tryptophan produces serotonin, a major neurotransmitter that signals your body system to relax or sleep. When you sleep well, you reduce chances of depression.
- Foods that contain Selenium
Selenium has been known to alter moods and a strong link has been found to be between selenium and depression. Ready sources of selenium include beans, dates, poultry, fishes, brown rice.
- Foods containing B Vitamins
B Vitamins have an excellent role to play in proper nerve and hormone function in our bodies. You would be familiar with some B Vitamins. They include: Folic acid, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and so on. They help to balance your moods. Because they are water soluble vitamins, it means that you need to consume foods rich in B vitamins every day to be able to have something in your body as they cannot be stored like Vitamin A, D and other fat soluble vitamins. You can find B vitamins in many natural foods, from leafy vegetables, to Bananas, chicken, almonds, and so on.
In general eating an adequate (in quality and quantity) meal, i.e. a meal rich in vitamins, minerals along with carbohydrates, protein, fat and water in the right proportions as required by your body, age and lifestyle, helps to improve immune function. When you eat well every day, you would have consumed antioxidants which help to reduce excessive free radicals and oxidative stress in your bodies that are caused by stress factors and lifestyle habits.
So, instead of picking this particular group of foods mentioned above, just eat an adequate diet and make sure you eat a variety of foods so that you have access to different nutrients that your body needs to build resilience against life’s stressors. All these nutrients work in synergy to make you healthy.
For those who do not pay attention to their meals, try incorporating a lot of fruit and vegetables into your meals and try to cook them well so as not to destroy the very delicate vitamins and minerals in them.
In a nut shell, find out what you can do to help someone going through depression and do it. Spread the message of love and care and be good to others.