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Changing Your Diet Can Help Tamp Down Depression, Boost Mood (npr.org)
263 points by pseudolus 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 160 comments

Our family starts dinner with salad. For young toddlers, this can be annoying to them, but they eventually get used to it, especially when they realize they don’t get the ‘yummy’ food later in the meal unless they finish their salad.

Our guests are always surprised to see the kids eating so much salad for dinner now, and our oldest recently even stopped adding dressing (8 y.o).

It seems you want to start humans young in the quest to get a good taste for vegetables, because I know many adults that just can’t stand them (didn’t have them as children).

My parents were health nuts and we ate salads every night with dinner. We almost never ate fast food.

Vegetables taste good to me. I like the taste of salad. I can microwave a bunch of frozen veggies and actually enjoy their flavor.

I'm not trying to brag, just saying that vegetables aren't inherently "bad tasting," it's just hyper-processed foods change your palate. Kids can eat healthy.

same situation and result with me

I had plenty of vegetables as a kid. Still hate (most of) them.

Not everything is learnt.

Do you hate them objectively speaking or in comparison with other food?

I'm also interested in this as "hate" is such a strong word for food. Say, brussels sprouts aren't my favourites but I'll empty my plate of them, while celery stalks have such a strong, unpleasant taste that I'll remove them from my plate. It's hard to imagine people having this celery-level of distaste to majority of vegetables, as they are generally very mild-tasting.

I'm also opposite from you. I quite like celery but even the smell of brussels sprout makes me ill.

I attribute my dislike of many vegetables (b. sprout, okra, asparagus, broccoli) to how my middle- and high-school cafeterias always overcooked them into a wretched goo. I've developed a taste for some of these later in life when properly cooked but sprouts and okra are still inedible.

There are reports that there is a genetic component to taste - especially for brussels sprouts. Oregano (cilantro) tasting like soap is another reported genetic link.

I'm the other way round from you: sprouts taste bitter, but celery is crunchy nothingness.

oregano and cilantro are completely unrelated

I believe he meant coriander (although coriander is usually the seeds of the plant)

Yes, vegetables are always going to be among the lowest calorie dense foods, and therefore not going to taste that appealing in the face of other options. It’s no surprise then that the ones kids tend to like the most are those vegetables that are highest in density ie corn, carrot, potato, peas. So while you’re not going to teach them to like vegetables, still good to teach them their importance and that they should eat some things even though they don’t taste good

> still good to teach them their importance and that they should eat some things even though they don’t taste good

I remember my parents trying this on me one night until I vomited their mank vegetables all over the dinner table. Never again.

>It seems you want to start humans young in the quest to get a good taste for vegetables, because I know many adults that just can’t stand them (didn’t have them as children).

It's just never as simple as that though. I mean, of course you are correct- push for the good foods as much as you can. And yes that certainly has a positive effect, I'm not denying that.


I'll just say this. I have two kids, 8 & 6. My 8 year old will eat most all vegetables. He can gobble down a massive bowl of peas and corn. He loves asparagus. He will eat brussel sprouts RAW (not cooked, only raw...). Loves carrots.

My 6 year old will pretty much only eat carrots. He's been introduced to the other vegetables all the time, sees his older brother eats them. He tries them, just doesn't like them. He'll eat carrots.

10lb bags of carrots from costco are a staple in our fridge.

So, just giving a counter example of no matter what I've done with one of them, he doesn't like the taste of other veggies. They both love their fruit. And having a pull-out vegetable/fruit drawer in the fridge is an ABSOLUTE LIFE SAVER. I would recommend that to all parents. Your kids can get their own snack- in the healthy drawer!

Anyway- none of what I said means I would do anything different. Or that you should. I think what you are doing is great. But I think with this stuff there is a lot of genetics/taste preference that we are banging our head against the walls with.. and it's hard.

I'll say this, my 8 year old is basically a little clone of me.. and I also love my fruits/vegetables. Whereas the 6 year old is much more like my wife, who wouldn't just choose fruit/veggies as a snack.

Nature vs nurture is a real bitch sometimes.

It's possible that your 6yo is a supertaster.

I dunno for me. I try to eat healthy and keep my weight down, but I'm happiest when I'm eating poorly. I get kind of run down and depressed when it's meal after meal of veggies and chicken, or just small portions of whatever. A pizza and a soda, or a huge steak and garlic mashed potatoes will lift my mood quickly. Then it's very hard to go back to healthy again. There's no question eating healthy helps my physical wellbeing though, so I do it.

Replace chicken with steak? In my experience, it's not necessarily the perceived healthiness of foods (chicken == healthy, steak == unhealthy), it's the carbohydrate amounts.

When I was in my 20's, I was relatively "hard core" about lifting weights and training. I weighed every meal, brought my own meals to cookouts, estimated macros as best I could. I was pretty obsessed with it all. As a result, I tried every diet out there, multiple times.

What I keep coming back to is low carb. By that I mean: Tons of broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, zucchini, nuts (almonds and pecans primarily), fish, and beef. Plus, hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano.

It's not hard to make these meals delicous. And, interestingly enough, I get "run down and depressed" when I don't eat this way. It's weird to admit that I crave vegetables like I would a piece of pizza. But, if we go out of town for a few days, and eat out a lot, I completely do.

Are you me? 95% of my diet is broccoli, zucchini, spinah, chicken, beef, walnuts and peanuts.

I'll usually indulge in a carb/sugar binge once a week. Any more than that, I feel rubbish physically - bloated, sluggish, hungry, irritable.

You might look at a book called "The Perfect Health Diet" which advocates, through nutrition science, for a diet much like this.

Big, big fat disclaimer — not a doctor, not a nutritionist, but I am actively enrolled in the school of hard knocks.

Soda specifically is going to give you a nice big dose of sugars which your brain is just going to love. But what you’re also doing is kinda training your brain — well when I had that massive pure sugar dose I felt great, now I’m eating chicken and veggies, and wtf where’s the feel-good rush?

There’s nothing really wrong with that either if you’re at peace and doing as you’re doing, eating a holistically healthy diet. But I do wonder in audience with clinical depression — if those people might be gravitating towards foods that offer quick pick-me-ups that make them feel like themselves finally, but overall make their depression worse especially when the effect is quickly wears off

Fruit does this to me which is why I have removed most of it from my diet, I end up eating too much of it and worse I end up wanting to snack other stuff afterward.

if I stick to meats and vegetables, mostly green kind, I don't have the munchies but I have to tend more to the "keto" side to keep it up. Meaning, no starches or sugars but lots of fats and green stuff; that was the key for me, lots of stuff that is green.

yeah there is science behind nearly every diet but the trick is finding out what works for your physically and mentally. Forget to accommodate the mental side and its easy to lapse

I'm no expert, either, but I'm pretty well convinced that sugar is addictive. It offers a similar quick mood bump to what I used to experience from nicotine. And, like nicotine, it turns out that I felt like crap for a good long while when I decided to stop consuming it regularly. And, like nicotine, eventually I pushed through that phase and found that my overall sense of well-being had noticeably improved.

And one of the dirty tricks our brains play on us is, a quick but short-lived mood bump is more salient than a constant improvement.

FWIW, for my purposes, "sugar" maybe has more to do with the blood sugar spike than chemistry. Mashed potatoes would count, insofar as, at least according to the tables I've seen, mashed potatoes have just about the highest glycemic index money can buy.

I think I agree with the idea but isn't saying sugar is addictive because you feel bad with out it is like saying protein is bad because you feel bad with out. It's somewhat necessary

I think the key differentiator is "reinforcement."

Addiction is often defined [in scientific literature] as having two core elements: Reward and reinforcement (i.e. likelihood to seek repeated exposure).

Addiction in general is a sliding scale. With anything offering both reward and reinforcement being a potential candidate for addiction.

We need protein nutritionally but both the reward and reinforcement are lower than sugar. So if you wish to call protein addictive, you may be able to, but I'd still suggest it is further along the sliding scale towards the "less addictive" side.

Plus if we measure addiction purely by its negative impact on society, sugar addiction claims thousands of lives every year. I don't know how many (if any) lives are claimed by protein addiction.

I recently finished reading Allen Carr's book "Good Sugar Bad Sugar: Eat yourself free from sugar and carb addiction". He's written a number of books to overcome many types of addiction and has clinics to help people with drug addiction. In the book he makes a compelling case that sugar is addictive and has similarities to other addictive things such as smoking, drugs, caffeine, etc.

It's really changed my perspective of sugar.

Is added sugar necessary, though?

According to the current scientific consensus, sugar isn't addictive in the same way as, say, alcohol or opiods. It does activate some of the same neural pathways.


> According to the current scientific consensus

A news article in "US News" that cites three people isn't a "scientific consensus." In fact the article itself reference enough contradictory research to show that it couldn't be a consensus (the only "consensus" right now is that there is no consensus and it depends which measure you use to define it).

Plus their entire position boils down to this:

> The research shows, among other key differences, that while similar neuropathways are involved in both drug and sugar consumption, the brain changes that lead to needing more and more cocaine to get the same high aren't seen with sugar.

They're conflating addiction (i.e. habit forming behaviour) with something completely unrelated (biological diminishing returns for addictive substances). According to that definition very few things are actually addictive (which is the crux of this article).

Both the DSM and ICD have a ton of stuff in them that wouldn't fit that tiny definition: Gambling addiction, food addiction, sexual addiction, video game addiction, etc. In fact the majority of the listed addictions aren't according to this article and these researchers.

If we're going to dig into the nuances, first off, a few scientists being interviewed by US News and World Report - hardly a paragon of scientific journalism - is not exactly a scientific consensus.

Second, there seems to be more subtlety to it than could ever be resolved by arguing semantics over vernacular terminology. For example, consider this angle: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/14/910

All this is ambiguous because people are different. Different personality types. Different needs. The spectrum is vast. And its all changing with different phases of life.

Study your own family and friends, and you will find a dozen different mechanisms people use.

The key is to be aware that there are multiple paths.

I was always on the heavy side since high school. 5'10" and 200 lbs was my usual weight. Then I fell into a slight depression after moving to a more remote location to be closer to work. I wound up gaining weight and hit 230 lbs. It was after my friends wedding where I was his best man that it really hit me. I was the fattest guy in all the pictures. It really bothered me.

Around a few years ago I started noticing more and more reports on how excess dietary sugar is quite bad for you. So I took a good look at my diet and realized that not only was I eating crap but also over eating in general. I then made it a mission to cut out added sugar, excess carbs, and excess fats. No keto, no atkins, no gym membership, no gimmicks. Just thought to myself "if this was 100+ years ago, what would I be eating?" I limited myself to eating just the basics in smaller portions. I limited beer and red meat to occasion and eliminated sweets, sweet beverages, sweet and savory dishes, and cheese. After a year and a half of discipline I lost damn near 65 lbs. It wasn't easy but it worked. (ymmv, I think my metabolism is quite good and I just abused it)

Conclusion? I feel great. I feel lighter. I move better. Clothes fit better. And I sleep better. I feel confident. I'm now the skinny guy in the group. Family and friends are both envious and inspired to also lose weight. Those feeling alone are addictive so it helps me hold the course.

caloric deficit while on the paleo diet?

Most likely. Like I said, I followed no diets so it was keeping my diet simple in terms of what I ate. poultry, fish, vegetables, rice, pasta, beans, and a little bread. Spices are your friend. There was certainly a reduction in caloric intake after I became comfortable fighting the snacking urges and easily ignore hunger pangs. I could skip meals easily which was deficit. but I'm back to eating normally which put some weight back on. My lowest was 147 lbs and that was after I realized I was under eating. People started thinking I was sick. Now I'm a stable 165 lbs but have a bit of a gut. Though I could probably knock that off by exercising.

> it's meal after meal of veggies and chicken, or just small portions of whatever

This doesn't sound right. No wonder you get fed up with such a diet and run back to junk, there is a mental/emotional factor to changing diet, as you describe.

I can't claim I know what would be perfect fit for you, but I can try: you describe tasty junkfood as the thing that makes you happy. Ever tried to properly spice up those healthy meals? I don't mean just chili, but dozens of herbs and spices available from all around the world.

Personal anecdote : When I went backpacking to India for few months, I practically stopped eating meat altogether - their chicken was full of bones, mutton was like a chewing gum, fish curries full of bones and god knows what sanitary conditions were (not) upheld. The thing is, I didn't miss meat at all, food was spiced so well and flavors were so rich that it took me quite some time after coming back to start eating meat (and I never really resumed pork and beef apart from few special occasions).

Also, don't know how active you are, but finding what makes you tick and enjoying the efforts will help greatly with move to healthier eating (it did for me). If you work out enough and often (this takes time to get to, but totally achievable for anybody), you don't have to watch portions and count calories anymore. The key is consistency.

Of course a huge steak would help, that is real food, not like the pizza and soda. Steak is healthy don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

That feels pretty dogmatic. I get soda not being "real food", but I think the only way you can disqualify all pizza is by running down an anti-carb rabbit-hole.

You can define real food as non processed food with minimal (usual one) ingredient. Pizza is usually made from processed flour.

I mean you might as well define "more real" as "less processed" at this point because the ingredient is absurd -- steak has fewer ingredients than pizza.

The problem I have when people argue against "processed" foods is that most of thing things that people argue as "processing" is just normal cooking and preserving made to sound scary.

And the research is there that we absorb calories and nutrients differently depending on how and how much we cook things but that should be the discussion.

The Dr Furman diet mostly eliminates processed foods. It radically changed my life, seriously. Only eating salads (only with simple home made dressings), beans, some brown rice, small amount of dense whole wheat pita bread, raw unsalted nuts, some lean meat, lots of green veggies, some fruit.

I don’t recommend this diet to other people though because the first three weeks or so of this detoxing diet is really rough. It was like my body was fightly back, pissed off at me.

Then, when I came through the other side, my levels of inflammation were drastically reduced, I was sleeping great, and my mood and energy level were great! I felt twenty years younger.

However, the first three weeks or so of getting used to the diet were awful which is why I hesitate to recommend it to other people.

EDIT: by processed foods, I am referring to packaged foods, not how they are cooked.

> And the research is there that we absorb calories and nutrients differently depending on how and how much we cook things but that should be the discussion.

Steak has significantly more available nutrients and calories if you cook it well done. I don't want to live in a world where we define food only on that axis.

Well yeah, but let's compare apples to apples here. A "processed" Salisbury steak you buy in the frozen section likely isn't all that different than what you would end up with if you made it yourself but the homemade one doesn't get labeled as processed like it probably ought to.

You're absolutely right that the actual nutritional content matters and there's a lot of low-nutrition food out there but the term processed just irks me because it doesn't at all capture what's actually wrong with certain types of food.

I absolutely agree with you - let's quantify why it's bad - "processed" food is a meaningless term. It has a bunch of implications (salt, sugar, scary chemicals), but those are the bad guys, a food can be processed without those, or unprocessed with them.

How is anyway a frozen steak classified as processed?

Processed food, as explained, would be the industrial processing of bleaching the flour etc.

Also the seed oils which are used is highly processed.

Yes you can make a non processed pizza. Use real ingredients.

Yes the term processed is irksome, so use real food. Real food is easy to identify. It's food we good eat and make easily before the industrial age.

You just went around in a circle - my initial question was why pizza wasn't a real food and you turned to processed as "You can define real food as non processed food with minimal (usual one) ingredient".

What makes a real food if it's not defined by processing? Minimal ingredients list? Marshmallow is just sugar, water and gelatin. The only way you could then consider that "not real food" is by appealing to the processing of the sugar again.

So would then whole wheat flour fit the bill?

Whole wheat flour is processed (milled).

Sure but when people say "processed foods" they usually mean foods that are "HIGHLY" processed such that everything that is good about them is removed. i.e. the complex carbs and fiber that are found in whole wheat vs your run of the mill all purpose white flour.

In that case I'm a bit confused where the processed line ends - is cooling and letting a piece of meat hang 14 days processing then? Where does processing begin and "food preparation" end?

The evidence on red meat is conflicting to say the least. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2019/09/30/flaw...

Not very conflicting at all. Harvard nutrition is known for it's conflicting ties to industry like Monsanto. They even have a fellowship. Once you see it in that, light it's safe to ignore most of the noise coming from Harvard.

The recent red meat study was a very rigorous one (as they knew people would try unpick it).

I eat unhealthy when I feel down but it usually makes me feel worse in the long run.

The older I get, the more I appreciate eating healthy. But every once in a while I'll order dominos and enjoy it without guilt.

That sounds rough!

Those are the circumstances under which I learned to cook: garlic, vinegar, searing heat, beans, and eggs can combine to make the chicken and vegetables unrecognizable. And still healthy.

contrary to popular belief, a huge steak is good for you! vegetables actually don't have that many nutrients and the ones they do are hard for us to use (ie beta-carotene vs retinol, ALA vs DHA etc etc)

This article has a good summary: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/diagnosis-diet/20190...

Vegetables have a ton more nutrients than meat, and in a better form for the human body. For example, iron in beans is much more easy to regulate by the body (to absorb only the necessary ideal amount, not less, not more) than iron on red meat.

Excess heme iron on red meat is harder for the body to regulate absorptions and is linked to cancer.

In general, there are no nutrients in meat that don't exist in an equivalent or better form in plants, that's where they come from after all.

Including ALA, DHA (flax seeds for example), and many of the nutrients are made by the body itself. We are animals too, our body has all the same essential mechanisms to process plant foods as animals do.

Of course, we can't eat grass like a cow, but fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, nuts and seeds all that we can digest easily.

Vegetables have less nutrients than meat. They are also in a less bioavailable form, so not as easy absorb. The link to cancer is from association studies which have confounders. A big recent meta analysis of these studies have shown that the reduction in risk for not eating meat is not worth it.

One can live on pure animal product alone and not need any supplements, yet one can't do the reverse. If you eat only plant food you must consume supplements.

There are plenty of nutrients found in meat and not found in plants.

B12 is the big supplement not found in plant foods, and the supplement was invented in 60s. So no true vegans could exist until then. Vegetarians existed, but they ate some animal products.

Plants also have no Vitamin A, only carotenoids which is difficult for our bodies to convert to Vitamin A.

The vitamin D found in plants is inferior to the vitamin D in meat. Most of us don't get enough sun for adequate vitamin D.

Vitamin K2 is also severely lacking in plants.

Heme iron is also only found in animal products. You need heme iron. For most people iron overload is not a worry, you need some genetic disposition to absorb extra iron.

We can't eat grass like a cow, but we can eat that cow.

You've made some claims without an examples. Can you give me an example of nutrients that are found in plants and not in animals?

Also the definition of an "essential nutrient" is a nutrient that we can't synthesise ourselves in our bodies. So no we can't make any essential nutrient because that's the very definition of the phrase.


Before fact checking all the rest. Could you stand-up this claim:

> You need heme iron.

You can live on products of the cow, you don't need to eat the cow. There are plenty of religious groups that are strictly vegetarian, and people have been following those diets for hundreds or thousands of years. For example Jainism followers don't eat meat or fish, and certain vegetables, but do eat cheese and other dairy products.

Yes you can survive, and I did say people have lived off animal products. There are no vegans cultures from hundreds or thousands years ago. The vegetarians still had to consume animal products to get nutrients.

You don't have to eat the cow, but it would be a waste to give it to the dogs when it dies. And you would thrive more if you did eat it.

Totally anecdotal, but I was a vegetarian for 12 years (since childhood). A year after I added meat to my diet, I developed Ulcerative Colitis (I was already genetically predisposed).

I have always hated the taste of meat. My pet theory is that some bodies simply can't handle it.

Eating meat for nutrients is like smoking for air, yes there are some micro nutrients in it besides the protein and fat micro nutrients and but they come at an extreme caloric and saturated fat cost in general, unlike plants.

If you live on only animal products you are likely to get diseases like scurvy, or like the Inuit have a rampant rate of atherosclerosis.

B12 is produced by bacteria in the dust, meat in modern factory farms only has it because it gets injected in the animals.

Living in nature drinking from spring water and not washing everything so throughly we would get all the B12 we need. Instead of injecting the supplement in the cow and eating it, just take it straight.

> There are plenty of nutrients found in meat and not found in plants

Literally all nutrients in meat come from plants, or can be made by our body based on plants, there are no magical nutrients in meat it's myth.

> They are also in a less bioavailable form,

Certain nutrients like iron are excessively concentrated in meat, and eating it every day 3 times a day is toxic, so having less of it per volume is a good thing not a bad thing.

All the vitamins that you need are available in plants, A, K2, you name it. There is no magical nutrient missing they all come from plants.

As you mentioned, your body also produces vitamin D, you can go outside which is healthy anyway and that's it. Your body produces Vitamin D just like the animals.

Our body can either consume directly or produce based on plants anything that it needs in sufficient amount.

There is nothing magical about meat, its completely optional for a healthy human diet in all stages of life - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864

What you keep ignoring is that the nutrients we get from meat they get from plants we can't eat. Unless you've developed a second stomach, or mammalian chlorophyll.

B12 only comes with veggies if you don't clean them, i.e., if you risk food borne diseases. Otherwise you need supplements.

Meat is optional if you eat enough unwashed veggies. Veggies are optional if you eat enough meat. Societies have survived for centuries with both diets, but the thriving societies were all omnivorous.

Nit: b12 - until the late 90's (I think) when it was discovered how to be made in a lab, there were no non-animal sources of vitamin b12. Organs are also full of vitamins, but most people don't eat those.

> most people don't eat those.

Most Americans don't think they eat organs, but they are a big component of most processed meat foods, like sausages. But offal consumption is prevalent in the rest of the world. Even in the US, you can find offal in many Mexican restaurants.

But you can also find much that is good in Mexican restaur... oh, wait, you said offal, not awful.

B12 is made by bacteria. We used to get more than enough from untreated water and soil on food we ate. Modern meat supplies are also supplemented.

B12 comes from bacteria in the dust, and is injected in factory farmed animals otherwise they would not have it and become sick due to conditions. Might as well getting it from contact with nature or by taking the supplement directly instead of taking second hand via a cow.

Liver is becoming popular again and will probably reach mainstream trendiness in the next few years. It’s full of micronutrients

Most of us are probably getting more iron than we really need. Excess iron intake is a risk factor for heart attacks.


> In general, there are no nutrients in meat that don't exist in an equivalent or better form in plants, that's where they come from after all.

There are certain amino acids the body can't make itself, meat and fish contain those in high levels getting them from plants is of course possible but a pure plant only diet without dairy and fish you have to be careful that you are eating the right mix to get all the amino acids.

> There are certain amino acids the body can't make itself

This is a common myth, plants contain all the essential amino acids. A cows gut does not magically create essential amino acids, it takes them from plants, and so can we.

There is no magical ingredient in animal products, they are completely optional for a healthy diet.

I literally said “getting them from plants is of course possible”, my observation was a it’s easier to get the right amounts of the amino acids from a source that already did the balancing for you vs eating a wide range of plant matter rich in some and not others.

Meat and eggs are complete proteins in and of themselves, as a single source they are complete in all the essential amino acids, plants aren’t so you have to be more careful to get a decent mix.

I’ve no dog in this fight, I’m not a vegan or vegetarian but I also eat very little meat for medical reasons so I made sure I ate an increased range of plants to compensate.

Cows get those eaas from grasses we can't eat.

“Vegetables dont have that many nutrients”, well that is a first time I see such claim, even while reading bogus carnivore diet related material

Vegetables are getting less and less nutritious as the topsoil is being ripped off with each harvest. We only have about 60 left https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-...

And comparing nutrients, animal products have far more, in better format, and more available then vegetables. For example liver is about 20 times more nutritious than fruit by weight.

well you have just compared the most nutritious meat food item (liver) to the medium dense vegetable item, nutrition vise. And you compared them by weight.. Compare them by calorie. For example, put 2000cal of kale in app like cronometer and you will see that you satisfy almost all micro nutrients and all protein and ala needs just from 2kcal of kale. But of course no body eats 2000cal and nobody should, I just gave an example when you compare by calorie.

Plants, have hundreds of active compounds in them that meat products do not. Those more bioavailable micronutrients from meat are linked to problems and cancers (heme iron) because our body can't regulate them as well as from plant sources.

Now I am not saying that liver is not packed with micronutrients, but I am just replying to a hilarious claims that plants are somehow drasticaly lacking in nutrients

Animal products have more active and bio available nutrients than plants. Eat nose to tail, why not include liver? There is nothing you can't get from animal products that you get from plants. One can, and people do live on meat alone. But you can't live on plant alone.

I would assume they are saying after vegetables are cooked they lose a lot of nutrients that are originally in them.

This is a way too oversimplified and low-resolution claim to be useful in such a complex debate as human diet.

First off, that is a serious struggle, I'm sorry you're going through that. I hope you find a balance that works for you.

Second, I would like to ban the phrase "eat healthy" from the popular consciousness. It's nonsense. You can't eat healthy. You can be healthy, and you can eat healthy foods. What are healthy foods? Foods that have calories and won't poison you. That's a big category.

When I think of "healthy" veggies and chicken, I think of a pot with raw veggies and chicken breast steamed until they're cooked, with a bit of salt and pepper. Incredibly unappetizing, very bland. I don't care how fat I am, I would never waste my time or money eating something like that. I'd rather eat a candy bar, which would be about the same calories.

Your weight is defined by the number of calories you consume and burn. If you eat 1200 calories of veggies and chicken, your weight goes up. If you eat 500 calories of olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, basil, oregano, sweet potato, hot sauce, and lemon-garlic-yogurt marinated chicken in a toasted pita, your weight goes up less. The latter tastes a hell of a lot better than the former, and you didn't gain weight. But it has oil and yogurt and bread, so some people don't consider it "healthy".

It is definitely hard to begin eating smaller portions, but I guarantee that if you improve the flavor of your foods, choose a variety of recipes, and keep the overall calories down, you can eat delicious, satisfying meals and lose weight. I also highly recommend cold-brewed drinks over soda, which you can carbonate yourself. I make overnight cold brewed tea and coffee, veggie-flavored waters, and fresh juices.

I think you just proved a point here. That's not "happiness" in the sustainable sense. That's instant gratification. The former requires sacrifice and cultivation while the latter requires nothing but giving in to whatever your monkey mind desires, which of course results in the never-ending loop of chasing the next high.

Yeah, I’m kinda in the same boat. It really depends on volume: too much bad stuff will deplete my activity levels and bring me down, but a relatively small amount boosts my happiness quite significantly.

This is orthogonal to the fact that sugar makes me sleepy overall.

You need to learn to cook more things if eating healthy for you is the same meal endlessly.

As someone who lost and kept off half their body weight: I very much support the "eat the same thing all the time" meal plan. A lot of people who get to be as big as I was are food addicts, so the less time you spend thinking about food, the better. The less time you spend in a grocery store looking at food, the better. The less food you have hanging out in your fridge, the better.

OP literally said he gets rundown and depressed by his healthy eating strategy.

He needs to learn to cook more things.

Same, but I think it's in part because I'm baseline underweight (and have a hard time keeping the weight up), and so it only takes a couple meals of chicken and veggies before my muscles literally eat themselves.

I can't eat an entire pizza in one sitting and a single big meal usually means I won't eat for the next 18 hours, so what I usually do is have small portions of fatty/caloric food. A single cheeseburger or pizza slice. Half a cookie. Ice cream, but the smallest serving. Those feel much better than a pound of chicken, and as an added bonus, I'm not feeling nauseous at the end of the meal.

Have you been restricting dietary fats during the "veggies and chicken" periods? I found that to enormously impact my moods. Once I added back fats (butter, avocado, peanut butter, nuts, etc) I was back to normal. Don't underestimate dietary fat and it's impact on your mood.

I agree. I eat a healthy diet and I need to make sure I eat some fatty foods like avocado and some raw unsalted nuts with fruit - otherwise I don’t feel right. I believe in eating lean meats, in small amounts, but two or three times a month I like to split a filet mignon steak with my wife and enjoy some greasy high fat meat.

Likely because you are addicted to the dopamine from eating lots of sugary/fatty foods or otherwise eating poorly. It would be like saying you try to drink water and stay hydrated, but you're at your happiest when drinking beer

I know what you mean. In the short term, a donut gets me really really high, it's like I'm on cloud 9.

but, in the long term, it's worth it to eat healthy.

Try adding a source of carbs with a low glycemic index like quinoa, amaranth or legumes. It should increase serotonin levels and decrease craving for sugar.

OP sounds like a drug addict or someone who simply isn't getting enough calories!

> A pizza and a soda, or a huge steak and garlic mashed potatoes will lift my mood quickly.

When I eat processed/junk food, the temporary high is very soon replaced by feelings of low energy, moodiness, acid reflux, and general sluggishness.

When I eat a veggie-dominant meal (raw garlic-tahini sauce over roasted broccoli/kale with a side of buckwheat noodles and hemp seed, for example) I feel vibrant and happy and productive for hours.

Tip for OP: when eating veggie meals, make sure to add vegetable fats for more calories.

Most humans get a dopamine boost from eating tasty food.

Have you tried adding more carbohydrates to your diet?

So much of this, when I work out and eat healthy I’m unhappy and have terrible anxiety.

It sounds like you're not getting enough calories when you work out and eat healthy, which would cause the anxiety. Every vegetable you eat should have been cooked in olive oil or some other fat (the fat helps your body absorb the nutrients and provides you with satiating calories). If you eat raw veggies, they should be smothered in a fat-rich dressing (tahini, olive oil, ghee, whatever floats your boat).

You should give fasting a try.

This year I cut all added-sugar from my diet. I've seen huge reductions in depression, anxiety, and exhaustion.

I cut sugar, not that I have much of a sweet tooth, aside from a small juice in the morning after skipping.

After only a month of no added sugar (not keto or atkins or similar as I like beans, good bread, oats, vegetables, but other than that no sugar added) when going for a lunch with a friend we shared a Coke, just a 330ml tin, between two. The lunch was nice, stewed chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, good conversation. When stepping outside, it felt like I'd had a full bottle of wine, just from that little amount of Coke.

I got off the subway early and walked the next few stops to walk off the Coke.

I take an annual medical and fortunately have no diabetes or anything similar, BMI22.X. My body, brain, simply had become unaccustomed to refined sugars, or was becoming re-accustomed very quickly for the other side of the kettle.

It was an eye opening experience.

Did this 3 years ago, combining it with cutting out other obviously bad foods (fried stuff etc.) is like night and day. It's almost alarming how much better I feel in general now, and how bad I feel after eating anything from the "bad food list", both physically and mentally.

Did you experience a week-month long increased depression after cutting sugar? That's quite common and one of the reasons why people can't do it at will. Sugar does some nice things to neurotransmitters.

My symptoms from sugar* had gotten worse than any perceived withdrawal.

*Extreme fatigue, sometimes persisting through 12 hours of sleep.

Check candida or fungi infection; it's possible your gut microbiome has some deficiency as well. Also, you might be pre-diabetic.

Same here. I also recently cut chips (generally trying to stay clear of Omega-6 heavy vegetable oils), and dairy. Noticed a lot of positive effects, and don't even gain weight if I cheat with a lot of sugar.

Sugar + fat combo is known to be a killer, multiplying effects of each other wrt obesity.

Been experimenting with this and related concepts (intermittent fasting) lately and noticed a pretty swift improvement in mental fog, joint pains and reduced need for sleep, faster recovery from exercise.

Can't speculate as to where the benefit is coming from (IF or maybe I was previously eating something I'm sensitive to?) but clearly something is working.

Did you change the contents of your meals when you changed to fasting, or kept them the same over different time periods?

For myself, intermittent fasting meant it was easier for me to maintain weight rather than gaining, largely because I removed a 400 calorie meal, a 150 calorie morning snack, and a 9PM bedtime snack from my diet.

However, when I changed diets completely for a month during a Whole30, I dropped quite a few pounds and felt much better as far as mental clarity and energy levels.

(Unfortunately I have not maintained that healthier diet, but plan to attempt it again!)

>Did you change the contents of your meals when you changed to fasting

Changed it. Currently eating a small subset of foods that I'm likely not sensitive to (chicken, rice, mushroom, various veg, blueberries, figs). That seems balanced enough that I can probably safely sustain it for a while. Googling kicked up a bunch of directly contradictory info on what helps w/ inflammation so I'm just winging it.

But at about 700/2000 calorie intake. All 700 at night, so fasting 23 hrs per day basically while running a crazy high deficit. Surprised how normal/better I feel with that crazy schedule.

OK. So it's harder to narrow down where the benefits are coming from. It could be a combination of the two!

But I find FODMAPs and Whole 30 to be useful starting places. Glad you found a collection of foods that work for you. (And I love mushrooms, blueberries and figs!)

I did look at FODMAPs too. I think it caused much of my gas. So took some inspiration from that, but it's tricky:

e.g. FODMAPs says definitely no garlic. While a Harvard "endorsed" anti-inflammation diet said eat lots of garlic.

Beans, lentils etc...it's all over the place depending on whom you listen to. :(

I'll have a look at Whole30 - never heard of it. Also seeing lots of chat about "Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen" on /r/plantbaseddiet

>Glad you found a collection of foods that work for you.

So far so good. :)

I also have positive experience by changing diet. Especially the mental fog part. Better concentration and i can do work without procrastinating too much.

From the PLOS paper >To assist in complying with diet recommendations, participants in the diet change group each received a small hamper of food items including olive oil (Cobram Estate), natural nut butter (Mayvers), nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds) and spices (cinnamon, turmeric). They were told to keep their shopping receipts in order to receive a $60 gift card as reimbursement for study foods. Participants in the diet change group also received a brief, 5-minute phone call on Day 7, Day 14 to ask if they were having any difficulties adhering to the diet and troubleshoot problems with reference to the prescribed handouts. Participants in the habitual diet group were given no instructions regarding diet, and were simply asked to return after 3 weeks for follow up. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal...

So if you enroll subjects in a study, give them attention, free food, gift card, phone calls, etc. then after three weeks they will feel less depressed than a group of subjects for which nothing was done.

It would be more convincing if they had a third group that they fed blue cheese bacon cheeseburgers, french fries, diet Coke and Lil Debbie cakes from a convenience store. I'd bet even money that the third group would have been less depressed too.

Or even a control group to whom you offered gift cards for things other than food, phone calls etc.

Though I agree with you, sounds suspiciously like the group who was depressed became less depressed as they felt someone cared about them.

That doesn't really account for the difference in like causing more or less happiness.

There’s good evidence that being in social situations, even with complete strangers, and even when you are very introverted and hate doing it, improves your overall happiness.

Great point! I bet the junk food group will still feel better (less depressed) than the group being left alone, unless they were somehow constantly being reminded about the "bad quality" of the food they were eating. It's all about long-term vs short-term state of mind. And three weeks is just too short.

A blue cheese bacon cheeseburger isn't necessarily "junk food". It can actually be pretty nutritious, depending on the specific ingredients.

Its amazing how well the sugar industry has ingrained the 'fat is bad, mmkay?' attitude into society.

neither fats nor carbs are bad, as long as you get good quality fats and good quality carbs. The problem is people eat bad quality carbs (highly processed) and they eat way too much fat, especially saturated fat. The scientists from the early studies had it right that too much saturated fats are bad for you. that doesn't mean you need to get rid of all fats. It's not commonly known, but important to remember, there's fat already in fruits, veggies, whole grains already in the correct quantities. Having a few nuts and seeds is also fine. Just be careful with all the processed fats and meats/dairy: you really want to limit those.

The issue is not about an ingredient, but indeed general food.

You can eat junk food filled with carbs (Standard white bread, pure pasta, white rice), likewise junk food full of fats. (Most milk products, highly processed meat.)

The main problem is when the diet is either lacking in things we do not completely understand (vitamins, micronutrients, perhaps phytonutrients) or is effective caloric surplus - that is, you gain weight.

Considering food x as carbs or y as fats or z as protein is reductive to the extreme not warranted by current state of knowledge and leads to milk powder and mashed potato diet. ;)

The basic nutrients do not have a quality other than perhaps the ease with which they're absorbed, which early matters for even somewhat unhealthy person, only perhaps for really sick people.

I wish I could vote you up more than once.

Our knowledge of more than coarse grained dietary needs and effects is grossly overestimated. That vacuum is exploited by commercial interests that typically vilify any form of consumption moderation, and focus instead on promoting one (over)consumption pattern over another.

"Eat lots of different things in moderation because honestly we do not know in enough detail what we need" is sound advice, but sadly just benefits the "patient" and not some profit maximizing economic lobby group.

You’re saying one should especially limit meat? That’s definitely not the consensus among experts.

There's widespread consensus on limiting red meat. Red meat is a class 2 carcinogen ~ that's pretty bad. Processed meat is a class 1 carcinogen, right up there with plutonium and asbestos ~ egregiously bad.

As for other meats and dairy(which is just milk), most serious nutritional researchers will tell you to limit those if not nearly eliminate them from your diet. The media is constantly showing pro-meat stuff because the meat and dairy industry keeps funding pro meat research. It's especially confusing because even some of the largest companies/organization like the AHA and American cancer society is taking money from big meat and big dairy and funding pro dairy/meat research.

The problem is highly processed meats, not necessarily meat in general.

A McDonald's hamburger is a good example of "meat" that would be good to limit.

It's not the fat that makes a blue cheese burger terrible for you. It's the combination of animal fat with refined carbohydrates. Wrap that bad boy in a collard green and you've got yourself a healthy meal.

Actually I didn't carefully read the list of food the op proposed. I just assumed it made better sense for the op to list junk food. To me, junk food is any highly processed food. I have nothing against fat or glucose.

>t's all about long-term vs short-term state of mind.

I think the point is the "state of mind" is a product of everything else going on in the body. It will be infinitely more difficult to have a positive state of mind while your body is contending with chronic inflammation and your unhealthy gut isn't producing serotonin. Your right 3 weeks isn't enough, but biomarkers can be dramatically improved in 3 weeks with change of diet, especially with respect to chronic inflammation.

They did a 3-month followup: >Of the 33 individuals who were able to be contacted, 7 (21.2%) said they had maintained the diet, 19 (57.6%) reported they had maintained some aspects of the diet and 7 (21.2%) reported they had not maintained the diet. There was no difference in depression outcomes between these 3 groups (chi-square >.05).

They don't seem to have done the 3-month follow up with the control group.

It's super tiny group anyway - the experiment is highly underpowered even if they did check control group.

Most importantly it is not a cross design, and even that would need in excess of hundred patients to be meaningful. As is they can be measuring the effect of attention and any kind of change on depression, given some genetic, phenotypical or environmental susceptibilities incidentally found in their treatment group.

Meaning the conclusion is not possible to generalize.

These tiny studies, especially of low quality and poor design are an annoying waste of time and money.

Argument can be made that the mind can change the body just as the body can change the mind. But yes, the notion that "state of mind is a product of everything else going on in the body" does make it easier for empirical studies.

I have to agree this was done really poorly. Another example of why randomized controlled trials aren't always what they're cracked up to be.

Not sure if a junk food diet would fly, but they could have at least given both groups a gift card and some gifts (maybe the control could have received non-food items of equal value?) and had the same phone calls, but with some "neutral" questions in the no diet change group.

There are plenty of studies that do behavioral controls. Not sure why they didn't do it in this one. Especially when there's a large literature on waitlisting effects on depression (basically people who are waitlisted as opposed to assigned to a behavioral control tend to have the worst outcomes).

>I'd bet even money that the third group would have been less depressed too.

Maybe, but certainly their biomarkers would continue to show chronic (dietary) inflammation and otherwise they would have no improvement in seratonin production in the gut.

Which is important why?

Please support this point by citing or conducting studies of good quality showing causation of these markers on mortality and morbidity endpoints, instead of supposition that it is true.

This is very hard to actually show, by the way.

Hmm, yeah. If I'm sufficiently depressed, things like diet become very negligible. Sense of belonging is much, much more important. I don't recall if anyone ever did a study for that in particular.

While that diet of blue cheese bacon cheeseburgers and Lil Debbie cakes sounds great, I would be pretty miserable on day 2 as a lactose-intolerant person! Although day 1 would be glorious...

Reinforces two of my top rules on food: ignore results and advice

- less than five years old, or

- from Americans

While I might reject some false positives, these rules are easy to implement and improve the signal to noise ratio tremendously.

That's funny advice about America. We are undeniably the most obese country.

But I'm hoping that the unique pressure we have placed on ourselves eventually leads us to develop diet solutions that help the whole world.

But as test subjects in an extreme obesity study, the rest of the world is probably wise to avoid American "solutions" to problems they might not even have yet. For example Butter Coffee is a huge improvement for some people here, because it is better than eating a bowl of sugar cereal or having donuts and a Frappacino. But is the Butter Coffee better than a typical Italian breakfast of "Espresso and maybe a small yogurt"?

And the Australians who did the study? Are they just like Americans but even monolingualier?

I think you actually have the kernel of a good heuristic there, but I'd, uh, refine it a bit.

As an Australian I’m stoked to see NPR cite research happening in universities here.

Also interesting to think about how you would possibly conduct a blind study for diet.

Isn’t the placebo effect strong here? It’s hard to have any kind of sham Mediterranean diet for the control participants. The dieters know they are dieters, doesn’t that knowledge- “I’m doing something for my health” influence the depression as much as nutrition?

I don't doubt the benefits of a good diet, I've seen it myself, but having been depressed enough to where I couldn't even eat, there was no way munching on some whole grains or kale was going to bring me out of it. Only a more put-together person can start thinking about improving their diet. Which I eventually did, but that was long after I escaped the worst of my depression.

Yeah, I'm never too impressed by these. Once I have control over my depressive states, I can start looking at things like exercise or diet. But if I'm highly depressed, those things end up on the back burner and I'm much more interested in solutions to _that_.

Not particularly surprising. The microbiome–gut–brain axis has been a subject of interest for a decade and a half now, and it's been suggested that the influence that mood disorders have on appetite and sleep actually swings both ways.

Anecdotally, taking deliberate control of my meal habits (and sticking to them even when my appetite goes nuts) really helps episodes go easier.

If only I weren’t so depressed I could summon the energy to actually give a crap about my diet. I know I should, but when you’re burnt out and have zero energy, Chipotle is just easier than driving to a grocery store, buying ingredients, ferrying them home, then preparing them into something decent. Oh, and don’t forget the inevitable dishes cleanup.

I hate that I can relate. There are times where it seems like I need Herculean energy to shop + cook a meal. Not to mention, doing so removes one of the only events I look forward to (pizza, ice cream, etc).

From a health perspective what's wrong with Chipotle? They have lots of veggies, beans, etc. You can eat fairly healthy there.

This is actually pretty sad to read.

There's been numerous studies showing that Magnesium (and the balance of magnesium vs calcium) plays a crucial role in many bodily function including brain functions and reducing depression.

I suspect what's happening here is that these people are eating more veggies and nuts and whole grains thus getting more magnesium in their diet.

A while back I tracked my mood and a bunch of other variables I thought might be related. And what was most surprising when I reviewed six months of data was that total calories was most correlated with being in a good mood.

I guess at least for me a calorie deficit is really depressing.

Also days I ate strawberries were also correlated. Go figure.

When they say inflammation - which I've read about several times in similar "soft medicine" contexts - do they mean the same inflammation as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammation ?

"The five classical signs of inflammation are heat, pain, redness, swelling, and loss of function" -- surely you don't have these when you eat processed food.

Yes, inflammation is inflammation. That said, the symptoms described in the wiki are more related to acute inflammation, such as swelling after you hit your head on a cabinet or something like that.

Dietarily, they're referring more to chronic inflammation, there's info about it here under "chronic inflammation":


They measured a bunch of markers of inflammation. That relies on hypothesis that "chronic inflammatory response" is a cause of at least some negative outcomes related to our diet to be meaningful. That causation is not quite proven.

I recommend eating colorful foods, such as cucumber (green), eggplant (purple), lemon (yellow) and so on. Pungent flavors help as well, such as clove, garlic and ginger.

From what I gathered, preparing and eating colorful, pungent food constitutes a large part of enjoyment in the meal, which helps curb hunger and sparks joie de vivre. It's no coincidence that we call "fast food" that way; it's meant to leave us unsatiated and craving for more.

I've noticed the biggest indicator of my mood is my carb intake.

I started off trying Keto, but found it very hard to maintain. Now, I simply skip the high carb portions of my meals. Skip potatoes, skip rice, avoid pasta (although black bean pasta is a very good stand in). If I'm craving fast food (damn you Chick-fil-a), simply skipping the fries makes a night and day difference about how terrible I'll feel later in the day.

I eat every 20 hours or so nowadays, I think that qualifies as "intermittent starvation" for people here. I still feel like shit.

Are you getting enough calories? While fasting can be good for you I highly doubt slowly starving yourself is going to improve your mental state.

Talking about boosting / anti-depression food, I got those https://imgur.com/HJFqlsX delicious kakis (called persimmons too) in a friend's garden. I'm thankful to nature for this amazingly delicious and nutritive thing

Eat any seasoned fruit, at will

I saw the help of changing diet as well. Along with going to the gym I think both are very helpful for fighting depression.

I am aware that doing anything at all seems very hard when you are depressed but once you start it and see how helpful it is, it gives you even more ambition to continue

What a coincidence that this article pops up just after a daylong fast for Yom Kippur…

Only tangentially related: has anyone else been getting tons of WSJ sponsored articles on Facebook about how ramen can stave off depression?

FB targeting algorithm is only accurate if they think I like ramen :)

Also, on the topic of depression - today is world mental health day! Good timing there

How is this science

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