ExecutiveChronicles | Can Depression Be Cured With Plant-Based Eating? | There’s a long list of reasons that any particular person might decide to begin a plant-based diet. Some may turn to fruits and vegetables for health reasons, while others feel strongly about animal rights and environmental causes. However, does mental health impact that decision? For some people, it may very well correlate—some studies suggest that a plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan diet can decrease symptoms of mental illness. Other research, though, shows a relationship between people following a plant-based diet and higher rates of depression. The question, then, is which one, if any, is correct? Does a plant-based lifestyle affect mental health and, if so, can it be used to cure depression or other mental illnesses?
In the past, one of the greatest psychological concerns someone would face with a plant-based lifestyle is the strain of finding food options and other items that aren’t derived from animals. Today, though, there’s no shortage of plant-based items available—resources like onlyplantbasedfoods.com ensure you can find everything from vegan mayo to plant-based proteins, letting you enjoy all your favorite dishes from your pre-plant-based days.
Plant-Based Diet Benefits
For many people, potential mental health benefits are an irrelevant factor in determining whether they should begin a plant-based lifestyle—instead, they turn to environmental motivations or perhaps physical health concerns. Nevertheless, there’s evidence that a plant-based diet may benefit mental health. For instance, some studies suggest that a plant-based vegan diet can help prevent or even reverse signs of depression. In part, this is largely because a person’s diet is often of a higher quality when they turn to plants. However, these same people will have the additional satisfaction of knowing they’re working to make the world a better place—a sure way to feel better despite mental illness.
Plant-Based Diet Detriments
Despite these benefits, some researchers have found evidence to the contrary—that more vegetarians than non-vegetarians suffer from depression symptoms. Often, a vegan or vegetarian will be in a group that’s already predisposed to depression—for example, women are more likely than men both to become a vegetarian and to suffer from depression or anxiety symptoms. Many plant-based eaters also face a sense of social isolation, with friends or family not understanding their loved one’s dietary or ethical needs. Additionally, a majority of vegetarians and others with a plant-based lifestyle are acutely aware of the cruelty humans inflict on animals and the environment more broadly, and often face vitamin deficiencies that can lead to further symptoms of mental illness.
A Plant-Based Diet & Depression
Ultimately, the benefits or detriments of a plant-based diet for mental health will depend on your unique needs. If you’re struggling with depression, an anxiety disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other mental health concerns, turn to your favorite search engine in search of a “therapist near me for anxiety” (or whatever concerns you’re interested in focusing on). Your therapist, psychologist, or another mental health professional can help you determine whether your situation might be a good fit for a plant-based diet being part of your treatment plan.
The best therapist or another type of mental health provider will always be looking for new ways to help their patients find effective treatment. If you suspect that adding a plant-based diet to your daily life will ease your emotional distress, your psychologist will likely support you in that endeavor, as they would any healthy method for creating a better life. You might even be lucky enough to learn that your new therapist is plant-based themself!
Ultimately, experts have yet to come to a decisive conclusion as to whether a plant-based diet will benefit or harm those dealing with depression. Talk to your therapist to gain their insights and seek out plant-based versions of your favorite foods to set yourself up for success. A plant-based lifestyle won’t necessarily cure your depression, but it may very well help to ease your symptoms.