Tomatoes, Natural Antidepressant?
What we eat has a direct effect on our emotional, mental, and physical health and researchers have known that a lack of antioxidants is related to the development of depressive symptoms. In a study recently published in the January issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers explored the relationship between different vegetables, including tomatoes and tomato products, and depressive symptoms in a community-based elderly population. After analyzing their health records, researchers found that those who included tomatoes in their diet regularly were less likely to have depression.
Unlike other fruits and vegetables, when people ate tomatoes daily, the risk of depression was reduced by 52 percent. The study also showed that those who ate tomatoes two to six times per week were 46 percent less likely to develop depression than those who ate them less than once a week.
This study suggests that a tomato-rich diet may have a beneficial effect on the prevention of depressive symptoms. Further studies are definitely needed to confirm these findings as well as the mechanisms behind antioxidants and mental health.
So, what is it about tomatoes? Tomatoes are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is an extremely potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, and blood oranges. The USDA estimates that 85 percent of American dietary intake of lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products. Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that is protective against heart disease and some cancers (and gives tomatoes their red color). Tomato products that are cooked (like pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, etc.) have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
What else can you do to improve eating habits and mental health? According to a previous Harvard study, research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help boost nutrient content of meals and maybe even steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices and towards whole fresh fruits and vegetables.
Dubbed “mindful eating”, paying attention to our meals even if we haven’t fully prepared them ourselves could be exactly what we need to battle the bulge and the blues. Based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment, these techniques have been proposed as a way to relieve stress and alleviate problems like high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal difficulties. In light of the new research, being mindful in all areas of our life would help cut down on mindless eating.
Overall, a diet rich in fresh whole fruits and vegetables and carefully prepared meals is the key to general wellness and having several helpings of cooked tomato products daily or several times a week might possibly even improve mental health!