Depression can affect every aspect of your life, from your relationships to your self-worth. Sometimes you may feel swallowed up and defeated by it, but the way to win is to keep fighting. You can take small steps to adjust components of your life that exacerbate your depression — and this also includes your diet. Certain foods you eat, such as sugar and carbs, can worsen depressive symptoms by negatively affecting your physical body.
Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. You must nurture one to help the other, and food matters. Luckily, many healthy, depression-targeting foods exist for your consumption. Read on to discover six foods you can eat to help lessen your depressive symptoms!
1. Nuts and Seeds
Get your omega-3 fatty acid fix with a handful of almonds, brazil nuts or chia seeds every day. These fatty acids easily travel through the brain’s membrane to bolster neural connections and improve your mood. Research suggests that some fatty acids may be effective at reducing suicidal ideation as well as reducing inflammation within the body.
More research is required for definitive answers, but people with diets high in omega-3s — such as the Mediterranean diet — tend to have better overall health. This aspect includes lowered risk for depression, cardiovascular disease and premature death. One study revealed that participants who took an omega-3 supplement showed reduced symptoms of major depressive disorder .
Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are rich in inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Inflammation causes damage to your digestive system and your brain over prolonged periods — in the short term, it can promote depressive episodes. Scientists often connect major depressive disorder to the existence of inflammatory markers . Conditions that provoke brain inflammation, such as multiple sclerosis, are often associated with high rates of depression.
Black raspberries have an ORAC value of over 19,000 micromoles per 100 grams . This value is the oxygen radical absorbance capacity, which measures how many antioxidants exist within a food. This fruit also contains ellagic acid and rutin, which are chemicals that fight inflammation-causing free radicals.
Fresh acai berries have the highest amount of antioxidants with an ORAC of 73,000. Substitute freeze-dried berries if you can’t find fresh ones — they maintain most of their minerals and nutrients.
3. Dark Green Vegetables
Leafy greens contain micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium and zinc. This category includes food like kale, lettuce and spinach. Magnesium regulates mood by controlling your adrenal glands — these release adrenaline and cortisol into your system. It works within your brain to block overabsorption of these stress hormones, making you more relaxed and less irritable. Vitamin C is known to improve mood, and a deficiency in it can exacerbate depression and anxiety .
Without an adequate amount of nutrients and minerals, your body slows down and loses energy. You’ll likely feel unmotivated and uninterested — two common markers of depression . This doesn’t guarantee that you have depression, but you may eventually head there if your nutrient deficiency remains untreated. It’s better to eat vegetables raw or lightly steamed to avoid cooking off all the nutrients, but some hold up better to heat than others.
4. Whole Grains
Whole grains are rich in selenium and tryptophan, which have connections to improved memory and enhanced mood. Tryptophan is necessary for producing serotonin, a well-known hormone that makes you more cheerful . Serotonin exists both in your gut and your brain, which means that a lack of it in one place will affect both. Scientists refer to this connection as the gut-brain axis — what you eat affects how your brain functions.
Whole grains are forms of complex carbs, which are healthier and lower in sugar than simple carbs. Simple carbs consist of foods like candy and ice cream. Reach for some whole-grain cereal instead of processed sugar the next time you get a carb craving.
Tomatoes contain high amounts of folate and an antioxidant called lycopene. Folate creates new proteins and breaks them down into energy the body can use. It also helps produce red blood cells. Folate deficiencies cause anemia, which leads to depression-like symptoms such as fatigue and irritability . You may develop depression if your levels consistently remain low.
Lycopene gives tomatoes their recognizable bright red hue. Scientists have found that it may be effective in combating cancer and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. People with high levels of oxidative stress can benefit from eating tomatoes, as lycopene is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent.
Avocadoes are powerfully healthy in several ways. They contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, tryptophan and an antioxidant called lutein. Lutein can improve cognitive performance and memory, and high levels of it exist within brain tissue. It reduces your risk for degenerative brain diseases by keeping your mind sharp. One study demonstrated a significant increase in working memory and problem-solving efficiency after participants ate one avocado a day for six months.
Lutein also has a connection to lowered psychological stress, as it may regulate cortisol production . This antioxidant works together with tryptophan and fatty acids to form a stronger mind and a better overall mood.
Diet Holds the Keys to Wellness
Many people neglect diet when it comes to improving their mental health, whether from a lack of knowledge or resources. However, it’s one of the major keys for bettering your body — complete wellness is difficult to achieve without considering what you consume. Incorporate more of these depression-fighting foods into your everyday meals and see what they can do to improve your state of mind.