Can food help with or fight depression? What is the link between diet and depression or anxiety? What are the best foods for depression? This article gives insights on how diet and depression relates, evidence-based nutrients including minerals, vitamins, amino acids and a list of top best foods that can help you to deal with depression. In addition find out the worst foods that may mess up your mood.
Foods for Depression-Why does Depression and Diet matter?
With the increasing rates of substance abuse, poverty, anxiety, stress, etc., in the nowadays life, it has been estimated that 1/3 of the population in all countries around the world are likely to get an episode of depression all over their whole life. Despite the appearance of various anti-depress medicines in the current market, this debilitating disorder is still inadequately cured because of the numberless side effects as consequences of drug use, including Ritalin, lProzac, etc. Therefore, the use of complementary treatments like natural remedies including healthy diet will offer useful ways to combat the negative side effects caused by this mental health issue.
Talking of depression, it is a well-known fact that excess of it can lead to several adverse impacts on your behavior, mood, and body. It can even cause both long- and short- term physical issues. Other bad effects of depression include;
- A poorly functioning immunity,
- Ccoronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Impaired learning ability
- Impaired memory
- And many other conditions that ruin your general health
How does Diet help fight or fix Depression? What is the Link?
The most effective method that can help to combat depression is to identify the underlying causes of the issue and try to handle it. There are various cures for depression. These cures include prescribed medication, over the counter supplements, natural remedies for instance, regular exercising, yoga, and massage.
The focus of this writing is diet which falls under natural remedies. Basing on numerous studies, diet affects your moods in one way or another. It may be positive or negative. There are some food items that can aid a lot in fighting against or beating off depression. Some even offer fast (almost instant) relief for times whenever you need an instant calming effect. The link or how diet affects depression is based on nutrients within a particular food. Below is brief overview.
Carbs and Depression
- Carbs and Depression
- Omega 3 for Depression
- Protein-Containing Foods (Amino Acids)
- Vitamins for Depression: Vitamin D, C, B
- Selenium for Depression
- Magnesium and Depression.
- Other Minerals for Depression-Iron, Zinc and Iodine
- Top Best Foods for Depression
- Other Good Anti Depression Foods
- Worst Foods for Depression
When talking about a healthy diet, you must have heard that plenty of carbohydrates are not good for your general health. It is believed that a majority of individuals tend to take more of carbs such as such as cookies, candy, or ice cream when they are tired, angry, depressed or in low moods. The exact term for this habit is “carb craving”. This habit is considered as unhealthy.
At the same time, you probably must have heard that carbs are essential for your overall health. Of course, your biology teacher must have mentioned that carbohydrates are the main source of energy and you can’t work without the very energy.
In fact, there are a couple of studies that have dug deeper into carbs and good health but more specifically in relation to depression. According to the studies, carbs are both good and bad.
Well, that sounds more of a confusion. It should not be a confusion any more. So, what is the deal? It all depends on what you choose. Refined or simple carbs such as cookies, cakes and ice cream are a bad choice. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet high in refined carbohydrates may lead to an increased risk for new-onset depression in women.
In place of simple carbs, go for complex carbs(Starches). Complex carbs contain fiber, which aids in slowing blood sugar level changes as well as lowering negative effects on mood. Such foods include;
- Whole grains products
- Vegetables such as sweet potatoes
- Plenty of fruits, and legumes, also contribute healthy carbs and fiber.
Omega 3 for Depression
Evidence from clinical, laboratory, and epidemiological researches have shown a strong association between the decreased incidence rates of major depression with the regular intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids that our body cannot synthesize by itself
Although omega-3 fatty acids are not advised to use as the first line of depression treatment, many researchers have shown low rates of depression in depression sufferers who have consumed these fatty acids to replace antidepressants prescribed by the doctors. Moreover, people in Iceland and Japan who eat more fish have been discovered to have lower rates of depression.
Life Extension magazine has done a wonderful article on the link between depression and diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids. According to the article which is based on a couple of studies, here is what you need to know about omega 3 and depression
- Brain tissue is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are of vital importance within cell membranes and in connections between nerves.
- Low dietary intake of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is linked to depressed mood, hostility, and impulsive behavior.
- High intake of EPA and DHA is associated with increased gray matter volume in brain regions controlling depression and mood.
- Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are linked to poor performance on cognitive and memory tests, and more rapid cognitive decline with aging.
- High intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy is associated with better neurodevelopmental outcomes later in childhood.
- In controlled clinical studies, depressed patients randomly assigned to receive omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated greater improvement compared with those assigned to placebo.
Foods high in omega-3s include wild, sardines, tuna, canola, trout, fish, walnuts and hemp and chia and flax seeds.
Tip: expectant mothers should opt for fish with low levels of mercury and other toxins.
Protein-Containing Foods (Amino Acids)
Proteins help your brain properly function. Amino acids content in proteins are actually the neurotransmitters’ building blocks that are very necessary for managing our mood and for combating depression. L-Tryptophan is essential for the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin, and thereby, people can reduce chances of having depression by adding more foods abundant in this amino acid to their daily diet, such as soy beans, sprouts, eggs, chicken, turkey, and dairy products such as low-fat cheese.
Vitamins for Depression: Vitamin D, C, B
While fighting depression, including vitamins in your diet is vital.
Vitamin D insufficiency has been linked to not only depression but also dementia and autism. A recent research, from Oregon State University, suggests there is a relationship between low levels of vitamin D and depression in otherwise healthy young women. According to the study highlights, initially low vitamin D levels were associated with clinically significant depressive symptoms across follow-up
This essential nutrient assists with the absorption of calcium, helping to build strong bones, teeth and muscles. Your body automatically creates vitamin D when you expose your skin to natural sunlight. Well, that sounds easy. Isn’t it? Despite its availability, a huge number of individuals have been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that an estimated one billion people worldwide have vitamin D insufficiency. These people include those with underlying medical conditions, those who live far from the equator and individuals with darker skin.
Some of the best sources of vitamin D include
- Cow’s milk
- Sea food such as Salmon, Sardines and Tuna
B vitamins are essential co-enzymes that can help the enzymes carry out metabolism and synthesize more neurotransmitters, including nor-epinephrine and serotonin. They in turn provide sufficient amount of energy and can help a lot in fueling your brain, thereby can help to uplift your entire mood within a short time period. Vitamin B6 contained in vegetables and whole grains can help to promote the production of dopamine and serotonin.
Vitamin B12 is essential for producing red blood cells that make up hemoglobin – the substance that carries the blood rich in oxygen to your brain. A deficiency of this substance can cause pernicious anemia, leading to paranoia, mood swings, and dementia – the issues that can worsen the signs of depression. Thus, people can cure depression by positively changing their diet and by adding more foods abundant in vitamin B such as eggs, poultry, fish, fruits, green vegetables, cereals, fortified wheat bread, whole grains, etc., or by making use of vitamin supplements bought from the market.
Considered a natural anti-oxidant, vitamin C can help to eliminate harmful free radicals inside the body. It can also aid the synthesis of the mood improving neurotransmitters which lift up our moods and allow our mind to relax, thereby bringing the happy feeling to us.
Moreover, fruits rich in vitamin C such as gooseberries, guavas, and citrus fruits are good natural cures for depression. 1/8 spoon of nutmeg powder mixed with 1 tbsp. of gooseberry juice should be taken 3 times per day as a useful remedy that can help to cure depression.
Selenium for Depression
While looking to beat off depression, reach for selenium-rich foods. Selenium is an essential mineral nutrient that your body needs to stay healthy. A couple of researches have reported a link between low selenium intake and poorer moods.
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that an optimal range of serum selenium was associated with reduced risk of depressive symptomatology in young adults.
Yet another study, titled “Selenium level and depressive symptoms in a rural elderly Chinese cohort” found that higher selenium level was associated with lower depressive symptoms without adjusting for cognition in this cohort.
However, remember that too much of selenium is toxic especially if you are getting your daily dosage from supplements instead of foods. Some of the selenium-foods that can help you meet the recommended daily intake include
- Beans and legumes
- Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey), eggs and low-fat dairy products
- Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts)
- Seafood (oysters, sardines, saltwater clams, crab fish, and freshwater fish)
- Whole grains (brown rice, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, etc.)
Magnesium and Depression.
Why magnesium? This mineral aids in boosting mood and energy by producing and supporting the brain chemical serotonin. The chemical is thought to act as a mood stabilizer. It’s is also said to aid in generating healthy patterns of sleeping. Foods high in magnesium include almonds, avocados, spinach, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, soybeans, black beans, salmon, halibut, oysters and grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, oats, brown rice and amaranth
Other Minerals for Depression-Iron, Zinc and Iodine
Other than selenium and magnesium, other mineral nutrients that help fight depression include iron zinc and iodine. Below is a brief highlight for each of them.
Your body cannot function well without Iron. Little or no iron will lead to an insufficient number of healthy blood cells or hemoglobin. This condition is known as anemia. It is more common in women than men. The symptoms of this condition are similar to those Its symptoms are similar to depression: tiredness, irritability, dizziness or brain fog.
Some of the top foods with a good amount of iron include;
- Red meat
- Liver (according to everydayhealth.com, this the most iron)
Zinc is your enzymes best friend. It is the mineral used most by over 300 enzymes that exist in your body. You are probably aware that your digestive system involves a lot of enzymes. The enzymes are activated by zinc. As result, food is broken down thus preventing allergies in some people trigger depression. The mineral also boosts your immune system, helps control inflammation as well as your DNA to repair and produce proteins.
Some of the best some of the best foods with zinc include;
- Meat & Poultry (beef, turkey & Lamb
- Vegetable (Spinach, mushrooms
- Whole grains
- Sesame & Pumpkin seeds
- Milks and Dairy foods
Without iodine the thyroid cannot function well and will in turn have an impact on your metabolism, body temperature, your energy growth, immune function and more importantly your how your brain works. When not in the right condition, you can feel very depressed, among other things. Best sources include iodine-enriched salt, dried seaweed, cod or shrimp.
Top Best Foods for Depression
1. Dark Chocolate
A clinical test published in the Journal of Proteome Research of the American Chemical Society indicated that consuming about 1.5 ounce of dark chocolate every day can help to reduce the levels of depression hormones inside human body greatly. Dark chocolate has magnesium – a powerful mineral that can help in fighting against irritability, depression, fatigue, and depression.
The best thing about this delicious snack is that many people in the world like it. Whenever you feel an attack of the depression issue, consume small pieces of dark chocolate and it will boost your moods soon as well as reduce the levels of your depression effectively. If you want, try consuming any kind of dessert that contains dark chocolate as a component or drinking a warm glass of chocolate milk.
Several types of nuts, such as almonds, are very abundant in selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B, and good-for-health oils that offer depression-busting effects. In addition, it is very crunchy and thereby can help in diffusing tension.
You can consume raw or roasted almonds as a healthy snack. Besides, try including this food into baked goods and desserts for more flavors. Along with almond, you can opt for pistachios and walnuts as they can help to decrease the depression hormones inside your body, boost your energy levels, as well as reduce your blood pressure levels.
People who drink milk regularly will experience less depression. A glass of skim milk offers the body a great level of antioxidants along with protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D. All these nutrients can aid a lot in calming you down, as well as fighting off harmful free radicals released inside your body when you experience an attack of depression.
The healthiest and most useful breakfast for depression-busting is a bowl of low-fat milk mixed with whole-grain cereal. In addition, try consuming 1 glass of warm milk before your bedtime to get better sleep. If you do not want to drink milk, opt for other dairy products, like yogurt and cottage cheese.
4. Fresh Fruits and Colorful Vegetables
Fresh Fruits and leafy green vegetables may positively affect your brain chemistry and help fight depression. Put down in numbers, studies show that vegetables may minimize chances developing depression by sixty-two percent (62%).
According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet with high intakes of fruits and vegetables was associated with fewer depressive symptoms. In fact, experts term this as a non-invasive, natural and inexpensive therapeutic means to support a healthy brain. Following is a list of some vegetables and fruits
Orange is abundant in vitamin C that can help a lot in boosting your immune system and is also a powerful antioxidant, helping to fight against free radicals effectively. Depression tends to make the load of free radicals inside the body increase. Orange also has significant content of vitamin A, vitamin B as well as various types of essential minerals.
To benefit from the nutritional content of orange, you just need to consume one glass of fresh orange juice on a daily basis. You can also add oranges into your daily desserts and to many baked dishes. Besides oranges, opt for other types of citrus fruit for the same health benefits.
Blueberry contains a high level of antioxidants that can aid a lot in reducing the levels of depression in human beings. Blueberry also contains vitamin C and vitamin E along with minerals, including manganese and magnesium, which are useful in relieving symptoms of depression.
Consuming blueberries on a regular basis can also help a lot in fighting against insomnia, depression, and other mental issue that can be caused by or lead to depression.
You should consume blueberries as a whole fruit in snack time or add these berries to a fruit salad or cottage cheese. Besides blueberry, cranberry can be also a depression fighter.
Avocado contains an excellent amount of vitamin C, vitamin E, protein, and minerals. They are also very abundant in healthy fats, potassium, and fiber. All these nutrients can aid a lot in regulating depression hormones by keeping your brain cells and nerves healthy.
Consuming ½ whole avocado per day can provide a significant help in lowering the blood pressure levels inside your body as well as reduce the hormone levels that cause your depression. You can consume plain avocado or add it to a smoothie or fruit salad you like. To achieve the best results, instead of the packaged avocado, you should consume fresh ones.
In brief, this depression-busting food is loaded with nutrients that can help in regulating depression hormones and bring to you a brand new life that is free of depression.
Spinach is a dark green veggie that is very abundant in vitamin A, B vitamins and vitamin C. Spinach also has excellent contents of minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and calcium that can aid in reducing depression hormones inside the body and stabilizing moods.
Consuming just 1 cup of spinach every day can give your body calming, relaxing effects. There are several simple ways to add spinach into your daily diet. You can add it to your salad, sandwich, wrap, or omelet.
5. Carrot Juice
Just one glass of fresh carrot juice is very abundant in vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and vitamin A, which are very necessary for the neurotransmitters synthesis, helping to prevent lack of concentration, irritability, nervousness, short-term memory loss, and some other issues associated with depression.
You can make a homemade adrenal tonic at home by mixing 1 tsp. of bragg’s liquid aminos (a protein focus derived from soybeans) with a pinch of sage in 1 glass of carrot juice. This can lead to an adrenaline rush; therefore, it can aid people in dealing with the daily stress within a very short time period.
Loaded with rich phyto-nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B, and phosphorous, apple can support the glutamic acid synthesis – an amino acid that plays an important role in the neurotransmitter production that can aid in preventing nerve cells from being worn out. Plain apple juice or the juice mixed with honey and milk can act effectively as a nerve tonic that can help a lot in rejuvenating the mind by providing your nerves with energy and vitality.
Abundant in tryptophan, an amino acid that is indispensable for the synthesis of epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine – the 3 most important neurotransmitters that decide people’s emotional well-beings, banana can act effectively as the best thing to replace an antidepressant, mostly for increasing those neurotransmitters.
Actually, the peel of banana is famous for containing higher amounts of epinephrine and dopamine, allowing people to cope effectively with sleeplessness, loss of appetite, aggression, and other signs caused by depression.
5. Green Tea
Green tea has powerful antioxidants, like catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenols. All these antioxidants offer a calming property on the body and mind, greatly helping to create a positive mood. In addition, it has an amino acid known as theanine that can help to promote the relaxation and improve attention and concentration at the same time.
According to a research published in the Clinical Nutrition’s American Journal, those drinking at least 5 cups of green tea per day would have better mood swing and health compared to people drinking less than 1 cup of green tea on a daily basis.
As you are experiencing a depression attack, spend time enjoying 1 cup of green tea right away. Nevertheless, 5 cups per day may not be good for some. Thus, you should drink 2 – 3 cups of green tea on a daily basis.
If you do not want to drink green tea, you can choose the black version. The positive influence of green tea will be pushed to the top in those do not smoke or drink alcohol.
6. Brown Rice
Brown rice has a high level of B vitamins, which are very crucial for maintaining the health of organs, tissues, and cells inside your body. They can work effectively as natural stabilizers for moods and can also aid biochemical reactions involved in healthy cardiac functioning, immune system, red blood cells, and brain functioning.
When your body gets sufficient amounts of B vitamins, you will be better able to combat and beat off depression and several mental disorders associated with this issue.
The next time, if you feel moody or irritable, try consuming brown rice goods to get better feeling within a short time period.
Salmon is a cold water fish that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and an excellent level of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help in boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin, helping to keep a happy feeling, as well as regulating hormones associated with depression, including adrenaline and cortisol. Omega-3 fatty acids can also aid your brain function more effectively at the same time.
2 – 3 servings of salmon on a weekly basis is actually a recommendation from experts. Along with salmon, people can opt for other oily fishes, like sardines, tuna, and mackerel. You can also take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement on a daily basis after consulting an expert as needed.
Besides an array of benefits for health, cardamom has been also proven good for curing depression attacks. Besides working as an addition to increase the flavor of food dishes, you can make cardamom tea by using cardamom powder. It can offer clarity of thoughts, help to soothe and rejuvenate the mind, thus increasing your ability to act and think sensibly.
Many researchers have indicated that consuming cardamom on a regular basis, either directly or by adding the ingredient to foods, such as warm water or milk with sugar can bring about significant relief from depression. Nevertheless, people should not use large quantities of this herb as it can cause some side effects, including the impotency in men.
Other Good Anti Depression Foods
- Shiitake Mushrooms – are a good source of B vitamins as well as a boost of vitamin D.
- Walnuts -are one of the best known plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids,
- Onions– they are rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants
- Tomatoes– contain lots of folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which are good for fighting depression
Worst Foods for Depression
Following is a list foods and drinks that may cause or trigger depression and anxiety
- Refined grains: This group consists of all kinds of foods made from white flour: white bread, biscuits English muffins and muffins; pancakes and waffles and white rice and pasta.
- Margarine: these yellow fats are said to contain trans fats, which, among other serious problems, promote inflammation.
- Soft drinks: This group includes both the sugar-sweetened and diet soft drinks. Other than depression, soft drinks are also linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
- Avoid drinks such as alcohol and Caffeine
- Avoid high sodium (too much salt) foods such as canned meat and salted nuts
More References and Sources