There are many factors that contribute to experiencing depression: personality, genetics, brain chemistry, and lifestyle, even the weather.
Sometimes people use food as a means to cope with their depression, or just to feel better. Many times, though, the foods people turn to — such as foods high in saturated fat, sugars, and heavily processed ingredients — have the opposite effect. These foods can do as much to keep people in the dumps as provide any real perks, physical or mental. Here are 8 foods that fight depression.
Walnuts are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and numerous studies have demonstrated how omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and reduce depression symptoms.
A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry is especially interesting. The lead authors ask the question, why is the vast biological research — from genetics to psychopharmacology — concentrated on neurotransmitters, when the mammalian brain is approximately 80 percent fat (lipids), and there is a growing body of research demonstrating the critical role of lipids to help brain functioning?
What’s more, the shift in the Western diets away from these necessary omega-3 fatty acids over the last century parallels the large rise in psychiatric disorders in that time.
One cup supplies over 30 percent of your daily folate needs. A shortfall of this key nutrient has been known to trigger depression, mental fatigue and insomnia. In addition, several common medications can deplete your body’s supply of folate, including cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, diabetes medications and birth control pills.
Fortunately fresh beets are in-season year round — just be sure to eat them fresh because the folate can plummet by up to 40 percent when cooked. Grate them for a delicious and colorful addition to garden salads; marinate freshly sliced beets in fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs; or add fresh beats to a smoothie or juice concoction along with fruit — it will add a gorgeous hue and a bit of sweetness without overpowering the flavor.
3. Fatty Fish
When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, no food source is better than fatty fish like mackerel, bluefish, wild salmon, and tuna. The fatty acids found in these fish not only have specific brain-boosting properties to fight depression, but also are good for overall health as well. They improve circulation and reduce inflammation and your overall risk of heart disease.
4. Dark Chocolate
So many of us love chocolate! Besides great taste and loads of health promoting antioxidants, dark chocolate is one of the best mood-boosting foods. Chocolate is metabolized by the body into serotonin, one of our most potent mood enhancing hormones. No wonder we love it is so much! Just remember that if you’re trying to lose weight, a little bit goes a long way.
5. Sunbathed Mushrooms
They’re rich in selenium, which studies have linked deficiencies to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and fatigue. And they’re the only plant source of natural vitamin D, a key nutrient three out of four Americans don’t get enough of — a British study found that people suffering with seasonal affective disorder (which affects 11 million Americans) had an enhanced mood after consuming more vitamin D.
New research shows that “sunning” mushrooms, which grow in the shade, after harvesting for just five minutes causes their vitamin D content to skyrocket — to over 800 percent of the Daily Value. To eat more, replace half or all of the ground turkey in tacos, burritos, or stuffed peppers with finely chopped mushrooms sautéed in extra virgin olive oil; use two grilled Portobello mushrooms as a “bun” for a veggie or turkey burger; or instead of topping with fruit, make a savory bowl of morning oatmeal by adding sautéed wild mushrooms, garlic, scallions and rosemary.
Eating onions and garlic frequently is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the digestive tract. These vegetables also contain high concentrations of anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants that contribute to their anti-cancer properties. Again, if you consider the relationship between your digestive tract and your brain, it is understandable why a food that can prevent cancers of the gut would also benefit your mood.
Fresh fruit is bright, vibrant and packed with immune supportive, health promoting phytonutrients. Unlike natural sugars in fruit, which are coupled with numerous phytonutrients and fiber to help regulate absorption, processed, refined sugars can cause a big boost in energy followed by a massive crash. This up and down is kind of like driving your car by flooring the gas then slamming on the breaks, over and over again.
This sort of stop-and-go system can really zap energy levels and lead to feeling blue. Rather than a traditional sugary treat in the afternoon, try a piece of fresh fruit. Even better, add a plant-based protein to your fruit for even more blood sugar stabilizing power, like a handful of raw nuts with a fresh apple, banana, pear or orange.
If you’re feeling depressed, this bold spice found in many Indian and Asian curry dishes is a great way to boost your mood, among other benefits. Turmeric can indeed be considered one of the ‘spices of life’ because of its profound anti-inflammatory activity. Famously used in spicy Indian and Thai dishes, turmeric contains the active compounds turmerones and curcuminods, which have been associated with a wide range of health benefits.