We have all had food cravings before. Whether it’s that late-night ice cream straight from the container, or the wafting smell of fast food as you’re driving to work, food cravings hit us all at some point. However, could your food cravings be telling you more about what’s going on inside your body?
What’s the Connection Between Depression and Sushi (Video)
There is recent evidence that suggests certain cravings for food may be your body’s way of telling you it may be deficient in certain nutrients, specifically those that affect our mental health.
A craving for a delectable slice of chocolate cake, or a bag of salty, crunchy potato chips, is not uncommon for most people. What is uncommon, however, is a craving for fish; especially when it’s raw. This is exactly what scientists have long tried to understand when it comes to the reason why people crave certain foods.
Sushi and Depression
A recent study conducted by the Food Marketing Institute found that just one in five people living in America can be classified as frequent seafood eaters, meaning they eat seafood two times a week or more. The same study also found that just 27% of individuals involved with the survey felt knowledgeable about the nutritional benefits of seafood.
With such a small percentage of Americans eating seafood, it has become increasingly interesting to some scientists as to why certain foods such as sushi have become increasingly popular. One prevailing school of thought is that the nutrients found in fish, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, may help stabilize mood and combat certain depressive symptoms.
The relationship between Omega-3 fatty acids and depression has long been known, with multiple studies finding that higher fish consumption was ‘well correlated with a lower annual prevalence of major depression.’
One of the earlier documented studies on the effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on depression was conducted in 1996 by researchers at the Clinical Research Center for Mental Health in Antwerp, Belgium. The study found that individuals with depression were particularly low in a nutrient known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a type of Omega-3 fatty acid found especially in cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines.
EPA, and another similar nutrient known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in very high concentration in the brain tissue and have long been thought to play a key role in nerve function and mood regulation.
A similar study conducted in 1998 found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, were found to be ‘especially low in depressed individuals compared to nondepressed subjects.’
Cooked VS Raw Fish and Depression
Cooking fish, much like other proteins such as red meats and poultry, can break down essential nutrients. When fish is fried in a pan, the fatty acids are exposed to extreme heat, which can cause the acids to break down, and if prolonged can destroy virtually all of the healthy fats from the fish.
Researchers at the Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Tuticorin, India have found that between 70-85% of both the EPA and DHA Omega-3’s were destroyed in the frying process. The study also found that canning destroyed virtually all Omega-3 content from certain fish.
However, studies have also shown that cooked fish consumption, when paired with a certain diet, has also been shown to decrease a person’s likelihood of developing depressive symptoms; which is great for all of the non-sushi lovers out there.
In a 2018 study published in Nature, lead by corresponding author Camille Lassale from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London, a Mediterranean diet–rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish could help lower a person’s risk of depression.
“There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health,”
The researchers combed through the data from 41 similar studies and found a link between people’s diet and their chances of developing depression. Overall, individuals who followed a strict Mediterranean diet had a 33% lower risk of being diagnosed with depression than those who followed other diets.
“There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health,” said Lassale. She went on to add that, “This relationship goes beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can, in turn, affect your mood.”
So What is the Bottom Line on Sushi and Depression?
Does going out for sushi automatically mean you’re depressed? Of course not. Eating sushi, or any fish for that matter, should not serve as a red flag for any mental health conditions.
Fish is an absolutely normal, healthy part of any balanced diet, and should not be included in yours for any other reason than the nutritional benefits it can bring. What is notable about sushi and other raw fish is that it is especially high in nutrients that are deficient in individuals who have depressive symptoms or clinical depression.
What this could mean, however, is that if you suspect that you may be depressed, or if you are currently diagnosed with depression, including sushi, or other fish-based meals high in Omega-3 fatty acids, into your diet could be a great way for you to possibly combat some of the symptoms associated with depressive behaviors.
As with any mental health condition, as well as any dietary changes, it’s always important to talk with your doctor about changes in your mental health, as well as any changes in your diet.
What Foods Help You When You are Depressed?
Tell us in the comments section below!