Depression is among prevalent illnesses worldwide, affecting approximately 3.8 percent of the population, including 5.0 percent of adults and 5.7 percent of adults over 60 (according to IHME). Depression has an impact on one’s day-to-day life and can have far-reaching consequences, so medical treatment is important for symptom relief, along with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet.
What we eat matters for every aspect of our health, including our mental health. With time, it has inspired an entire branch of medicine known as nutritional psychiatry. Delving into a more specific field, this article lists the best food for depression. The foods listed below provide the body with the nutrients it requires to fight chemical changes in the brain that may cause depression.
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What Are Natural Antidepressant Foods?
B vitamin-rich foods, particularly folate, pyridoxine (B-6), and methyl-cobalamin (B-12), can be beneficial foods that fight depression. That is because the B vitamins are enzyme cofactors that help to synthesize neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids and some B vitamins are known for their anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, which may contribute to their antidepressant features. Some examples of food rich in these vitamins include whole grains and leafy green vegetables.
What Foods Help Depression and Anxiety?
Natural magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach and Swiss chard, may also make someone feel calmer. Legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are also good sources of this nutrient. Zinc-rich foods like oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks can also reduce anxiety. Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and occasional treats can help you maintain ideal health and boost your mood overall.
15 Best Foods to Eat for Depression
Here is our pick for 15 foods that fight depression. Adding them to your diet to supplement the professionally developed treatment plan can benefit you in many ways.
Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which aids in the production of feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. In addition, they are high in natural sugar and prebiotic fiber, all of which help keep your blood sugar levels and mood stable. Prebiotics are fibers that help feed healthy bacteria in your gut, and a healthy gut microbiome is linked to a lower prevalence of mood disorders.
Fruits like berries are an essential element of a healthy and nutrient-rich diet. Berries are high in antioxidants and phenolics, which help fight oxidative stress, a discrepancy of toxic components in your body. You can also try berries frozen at their high point of ripeness, which allows the preservation of the most antioxidants.
Vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens, are high in fiber, folate, and other nutrients, making them an excellent choice when looking for foods to help improve and stabilize mood. In addition, green and leafy vegetables are also high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is one of three types of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts are high in fibers. Certain nuts are also high in tryptophan, selenium, and zinc, which may help with brain function and reduce your risk of depression. Tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for the production of mood-boosting serotonin, is abundant in almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts.
Seeds are also a great source of Omega-3 fats — a good thing to have when you aim to beat depression. Flaxseed and chia seeds can provide you with the daily recommended amount of Omega-3. In addition, certain seeds are high in zinc and selenium. A lack of these minerals, which are essential for brain function, has been linked to higher rates of depression.
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Fatty fish is high in Omega-3 fats: eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Consuming enough of them has been linked to lower levels of depression. For example, salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and trout are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans are high in protein and fiber, which help keep blood sugar levels stable and constant. In addition, they’re high in B vitamins, which help improve mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), all of which are important for mood regulation.
Milk has a high amount of vitamin D. If you have very low levels of this vitamin in your body, it can sometimes contribute to depression. Vitamin D is thought to boost the number of monoamines (a class of neurotransmitters; for example, serotonin) in your brain, impacting your mood. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but you can supplement it with dairy (or non-dairy products like fish).
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Continuing our picks for the best diet for depression, caffeine is the next. Consuming caffeine in a moderate amount may help reduce depressive symptoms. Chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and caffeic acid found in coffee can reduce depression symptoms in people. This may alleviate some of the discomfort and distress caused by depression.
Chicken is a food rich in protein that can help increase alertness and energy and stabilize your hunger, making it easier to adhere to a healthy diet. Poultry also provides tryptophan that helps your body start producing serotonin, making you feel calmer and more satisfied.
These are among the few non-animal foods with high vitamin D levels, and fat-soluble vitamins with numerous health benefits. To get the nutrients, try different dishes cooked from mushrooms, such as pasta sauces, soups, salads, and pies.
Because your brain uses fats in various ways, healthy fats are an essential component of an anti-depression diet. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, found in other brain-nourishing superfoods like olive oil, and essential nutrients like magnesium and potassium, which may have calming properties.
Low levels of neurotransmitters in our brains can exacerbate depression symptoms. That is why we need to provide adequate nutrients to those neurotransmitters, and one way to do so is to consume amino acids, such as those found in liquid aminos. It can be used in place of soy sauce in stir-fries and salad dressings.
Nutrients found in eggs, such as vitamin B6 and choline, are vital to improving physical and psychological functions because they shield against some of the effects of stress. In addition, they support the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, which help our brains function normally and may help to improve your energy and mood.
Kimchi is a fermented food that helps balance gut health and aids in making neurotransmitters that can improve one’s mood. ‘Gut-brain axis” is the relation between brain and gut health. The area of the gut-brain axis is currently a highly researched area. Also, kimchi is a prebiotic food that according to some controlled trials can improve mood. Fermented foods like kimchi help balance gut health, which aids in producing neurotransmitters that can help boost your overall mood. This link between brain and gut health is known as the ‘gut-brain axis,’ and it is quickly becoming one of the most heavily researched areas in this space”. In addition, probiotics have also been shown in controlled trials to improve mood.
Are There Foods to Avoid in Depression?
Before wrapping up the article, we have a list of foods that are often recommended to be reduced if you have depression, as they may contribute to your deteriorated mental health. Here’s the list:
- Regular soda
- Processed food
- Energy drinks
- Junk food
Lifestyle changes, establishing positive habits, and a healthy diet can help you feel better about yourself and even reduce the symptoms of some mental health conditions. For example, the above-mentioned best foods for depression can positively impact your depression-fighting journey. However, they will not be able to replace medical treatment or psychotherapy.
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