Eating healthy food is not only good for your body but may also be good for your mind with a team of Australian researchers looking into the possibility that good food may alleviate depression.
In the study, participants who have been diagnosed with depression will follow a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish and legumes and low in processed foods, sugar, salt and saturated fats.
Previous studies have shown a link between the healthy diet and a reduced risk of the condition but this will be the first full-scale clinical trial to examine whether it can be used to alleviate symptoms after diagnosis.
If successful, the trial could mean sufferers around the world will rely less on psychiatric drugs to manage their illness.
Up to a third of depressed people are non-responsive to antidepressants or psychotherapy and researchers say food may be the key to helping this group.
"Depression now counts for the largest burden of disability in the developed world and, by 2020, it will account for the second-largest burden right across the world. We're really limited in effective treatments, so finding something that is helpful for people with depression, something that is under their own volition, this is really critically important," said the lead researcher, Felice Jacka, from the Deakin University school of medicine.
A quarter of the 200 volunteers have already been recruited and are being assigned to either a dietary group, which will receive weekly nutritional support and counselling, or a control group. The groups will be monitored for three months.
The nutritional regime will vary slightly from the traditional Mediterranean diet in that it will also include moderate amounts of red meat, which has been linked to reducing risk of mental illness, particularly in women.
"We want to emphasise the foods that have been shown to be particularly important in mental health. One of those is fish - food that's rich in omega 3 fatty acids and higher in good fats - such as salmon. Leafy green vegetables are very high in folate, which has also been shown to be important in mental health, along with legumes such as lentils and beans, and wholegrains and nuts," Jacka said.