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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – We all know the importance of eating right, but now there’s scientific proof that diet can be just as good as medication when it comes to treating moderate to severe depression.

Oatmeal is part of a diet that’s helping to treat William Jiang’s depression.

“It’s changed my life dramatically,” he said.

Can people struggling with depression get better with diet? Researchers in Australia looked at whether food could improve mood.

Their study involved 67 people with moderate to severe depression. They were on antidepressants, and in psychotherapy.

Half got the Mediterranean diet, and dietary support sessions with a dietician. Half continued their unhealthy diets, and went to social support sessions.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in plant-based foods, healthy fats such as olive oil, whole grains, even an occasional glass of red wine.

After 12 weeks, the Mediterranean diet group had improvement in their depression scores. Some had so much improvement they no longer met criteria for depression.

It’s possible anti-inflammatory properties of these foods help, or perhaps the foods have a positive effect on the relationship between gut microbes and brain health.

Health coach Bobbi DiClaudio focuses on the connection between emotions, physical activity, and food. With her own clients, she sees that food and mood go hand in hand.

“The last thing I want to say to them is you have to give all that stuff up, because that’s really intimidating and really overwhelming,” DiClaudio said. “So to start, we just say, hey, what can we add in to your diet right now?”

For boosting mood, she recommends fresh fruits and vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds.

So would diets be prescribed like medicine for depression? You may not want to give up the anti-depressants quite yet.

“I would think of diet as maybe an adjunct, to a more proven, robust primary treatment,” Dr. Van Nickell, of Allegheny Health Network Psychiatry, said. “If you’re switching from your normal American diet, to something there’s going to be, there will be more obstacles to maintaining it, people who are depressed are going to have a hard time doing that.”

In Jiang’s case, by cutting out fast food and eating a diet rich with fish, fruit and vegetables, he says he no longer needs to take anti-depressants.

“A healthy mind, a healthy body. It’s ancient wisdom, but it holds true today,” he said.

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