Foods That Help Depression

Updated on March 23rd, 2020
foods for depression

As per the WHO reports, nearly 300 million individuals are affected by depression. This eye-opening number brings to light how grave a problem depression has become. In fact, according to WHO, depression is predicted to be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020.

Symptoms of depression are known for crippling regular activities and as a result, impairing the quality of life. The taboo around mental health makes it even more difficult for depressed individuals to seek professional help. As a result, a large number of suicide cases are related to psychiatric diseases, amongst which depression is a high-risk factor.

Did You Know?

Depression is said to be more common in females (21%) than males (13%).

Fortunately, certain foods for depression can safeguard your mental health. Incorporating these products in your diet can contribute towards your general well-being and alleviation of depression(1) and its symptoms.

 

[Also Read: How to Treat Depression Naturally]

Link Between Depression and Diet

Until recently, the relation between depression and diet was hardly understood.

A study titled “Understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illnesses,” which was published in 2008 was one of the first scientific studies to factor in nutritional neuroscience to find the connection between nutrition and depression. It attempted to explain the role of nutrition in the onset, severity, and duration of depression.

Following this, a 2017 study tried to explore the therapeutic impact of food habits on existing mental illness. The study observed that participants who followed a healthier diet observed fewer and less intense symptoms of depression than the control subjects.

Thus, a groundwork for linking diet with depression was laid.

[Also Read: Popular Diet for Depression]

Did You Know?

Those who follow the Mediterranean or Japanese diet as opposed to the Western diet have reported to cut down the risk of developing depression by 25 to 30 percent.

Foods for Depression

When paired with regular exercise, the following foods for depression may alleviate symptoms of depression: Find below what foods are good for depression.

1. Eggs

eggs benefits
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Eggs are a versatile ingredient considering the several ways in which it can be prepared. This kitchen staple is not only a healthy and affordable option but is also packed with nutrients. It is an integral part of a balanced diet.

Why Does It Work?

Eggs are rich in protein, which boost the blood plasma level of tryptophan. The mood stabilizing neurotransmitter called serotonin is derived from tryptophan. Thus, a greater concentration of tryptophan would mean higher levels of serotonin.

They are rich in selenium, vitamins B6 and B12, vitamin D, and minerals. Further, egg yolks are also loaded with biotin, tryptophan, choline, tyrosine, and omega-3 fatty acids, amongst other nutrients.

These compounds have strong antioxidant properties that can fight inflammation. Most importantly, dopamine, which is synthesized from tyrosine, contributes towards mood elevation.

[Also Read: Daily Eggs Intake]

2. Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy items are often associated with the promotion of bone health. However, they are also rich in nutrients that can offer other health benefits. It can also help in improving the condition of your muscles and heart, amongst other benefits.

Did You Know?

Low-fat dairy can cut down risks of obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

Why It Works

Dairy products such as skimmed milk, low-fat cheese, and yogurt are rich in protein, vitamin D, and calcium(2). These can collectively induce a feeling of well-being and relaxation, which can counter the symptoms of depression.

3. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes Benefits
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Sweet potatoes come in varied sizes and colors, which includes orange, white, and purple! These colors indicate the presence of beta carotene and anthocyanins, which help in maintaining healthy eyes. They are a great source of fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Regular consumption of this root can make significant contributions to gut health promotion.

Why It Works

Sweet potato contains a healthy amount of complex carbohydrates. These good carbs can trigger your brain to release feel-good hormones such as serotonin. Since they have a low glycemic index and are high in fiber, you won’t have to fret about gaining pounds while consuming such carbs.

It is also speculated that gluten may aggravate depression. According to a theory, the chemicals released as a by-product of gluten could cause depressive phases. Sweet potato is a gluten-free vegetable in addition to being an excellent nutritional source.

4. Tofu

Tofu is prepared by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into blocks. There are many variants of tofu such as silken tofu, firm tofu, extra firm tofu, seasoned tofu, and more. It contains all nine amino acids that are essential for our body. Since tofu is known for mimicking female hormones, several women prefer consuming it around menopause.

Why It Works

Soy products, such as tofu, are a rich source of tryptophan. Tofu is an even more invaluable powerhouse of protein for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet. You can easily substitute any lean meat with tofu and still gain near equivalent nutrients.

Certain varieties of tofu are calcium-set, which offers an added calcium boost to your diet. Studies have indicated that a low calcium diet could contribute to depression. Thus, tofu can supplement your diet with calcium.

[Also Read: Herbal Remedies for Depression]

5. Fatty Fish

benefits of salmon
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Unlike other kinds of meat, fish does not contain saturated fats. Fish like mackerel, lake trout, wild salmon, herring, tuna, sardines, and bluefish are well-known fatty fish that are loaded with proteins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Why It Works

Fatty fishes are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. This naturally occurring fatty acid can boost the functioning of the brain and manage the symptoms of depression. Being a rich source of tryptophan also tips the scales in favor of 2fatty fish. In addition to improving brain function, fatty fish is also great for general well-being as they lower blood pressure, balance cholesterol, and prevent heart diseases.

[Also Read: Benefits of Tuna Fish]

6. Nuts and Seeds

For all your cravings, nuts and seeds are an excellent substitute for unhealthy snacks. They are nutritional powerhouses that have become the latest food item in vogue. They can significantly cut down the risk of contracting major diseases. Every diet regime will have a moderate amount of nuts and seeds included in the plan.

Did You Know?

An individual who suffers from depression will experience high carb cravings, which is a self-medicating technique to increase serotonin levels.

Why It Works

Nuts are a great source of proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats. However, what makes them effective against depression is the Selenium content found in nuts. While selenium is toxic in large concentrations, studies have linked selenium deficiency with depression.

While cashews for depression are a good choice, the mood-boosting property of walnuts requires special mention. If you are looking for a plant-based food item that offers a large amount of omega-3 fatty acid, then walnuts will not disappoint you.

Apart from nuts, seeds like chia, hemp seeds, and flax seeds are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and are suitable for your mood. They not only make their contribution as mood boosters but also help in increasing the absorption of protective nutrients available in complementary foods like vegetables.

7. Turkey

Chicken and Turkey mix
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Turkey provides high-quality protein while cutting down unsaturated fats. It is rich in amino acids, iron, zinc, potassium, and other minerals. As you will discover, there is a strong reason why Thanksgiving meals put you in a happy mood.

Why It Works

While most lean meats are effective against depression, Turkey has an edge due to the higher levels of tryptophan. It is an ideal food for depression as it is considered to be the best source of naturally occurring tryptophan. Studies have suggested that upon eating tryptophan on an empty stomach, the levels of serotonin levels are replenished and restored in the brain.

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[Also Read: Benefits of Turkey Meat]

8. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are ideal for those on a plant-based diet. Vegans and vegetarians can draw their protein by regularly consuming mushrooms. Another advantage is its high accessibility and great variety. Mushrooms are traditionally known for boosting the body’s natural defense.

Why It Works

There are two main reasons mushrooms for depression adequate: First, because of the chemical properties of mushroom which oppose insulin production. This lowers the blood sugar level and evens out the general mood. Second, because of its probiotic action, which promotes healthy bacteria in the gut. The enhanced intestinal health will encourage the manufacturing of serotonin in the gut.

[Also Read: Alternative Treatments for Depression]

Did You Know?

About 80 to 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is synthesized by the nerve cells present in the intestines.

9. Tomatoes

Tomatoe benefits
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Rich in antioxidants, tomatoes can easily be incorporated in various cuisines. From soups and salads to gravies and sauces, tomato is highly versatile. Interestingly, tomatoes can neuter a significant number of toxins present in the body.

Why It Works

The folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid present in tomatoes are quite efficient in reducing depression and its symptoms. A diet deficient in folate is found to have linkages with depression.

High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid present in the blood, can restrict the synthesis of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Folic acid prevents the accumulation of excessive amounts of homocysteine, thereby ensuring a healthy production of useful neurotransmitters.

On the other hand, alpha-lipoic acid helps in converting glucose into useful energy, which helps in mood stabilization.

Foods to Avoid

Now that you know the right foods for depression, you should also be aware of the foods that you must avoid. Some of the worst culprits that can worsen your depression are:

  • Sugary foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Refined Carbs
  • Processed foods
  • Trans fats and saturated fats

Did You Know?

When consumed in moderation, caffeine is known for increasing the dopamine levels. However, too much caffeine can trigger your anxiety.

[Read: Healthy Foods To Boost Your Mood]

Other Ways to Boost Mood

Merely following a diet containing foods for depression is not enough. It needs to be complemented with specific ways to elevate mood. Following are some ways to boost your mood:

1. Exercise: A UK

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based research exhibited that exercising regularly can not only protect from the damaging consequences of stress but also has an antidepressant action.

[Also Read: Supplements to Treat Depression]

2. Soak Up the Sun

Light therapy is commonly used for treating seasonal depression. Furthermore, research has indicated a positive relationship between bright light and serotonin levels.

3. Supplements

While food items may have specific limitations, supplements offer these compounds in its pure state. However, it is strongly recommended to take supplements only with the approval of your psychiatrist or psychologist.

4. Gut Bacteria

The gut-brain axis plays a vital role in producing and maintaining healthy levels of serotonin. Thus, consume a high-fiber diet to support gut health. You may even make use of supplemental probiotics.

Following a balanced and healthy diet can benefit you in various ways. It is particularly helpful in maintaining your mental health. However, very few understand the importance of how these dietary modifications help in improving mood, boosting energy level, and giving a sense of well-being.

Here is a quick roundup of the food types or micro-nutrients that you should include in your diet to beat depression:

  • Good Carbs
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium
  • Calcium

Incorporating these elements in your food can help in uplifting your mood when you feel depressed. These foods act as alternatives to antidepressants and will help you overcome the symptoms of depression and keep it at bay.

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