Feeling depressed once in a while is normal when it is related to loss, life’s struggles or an injured self-esteem.
However, when intense sadness and feelings of being helpless, hopeless and worthless become a part of your life and prevent you from functioning normally, you may be suffering from clinical depression, a common but serious mood disorder.
Depression can cause severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression affects one in 10 Americans.
Dealing with depression is not easy for the person as well as their family members and friends. However, there is no need to suffer in silence. You can turn to different therapies, medications, meditation, physical exercise and even diet to help combat the condition.
Many foods have been scientifically proven to lift a person’s mood, and you should include them in your diet to help ease your depression in a safe and natural manner. Foods containing nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, tryptophan, vitamin D or B vitamins, have a direct impact on mood.
These foods even boost the effectiveness of antidepressants and also help prevent relapses of depression in the long run.
Here are top 10 foods to eat to fight depression.
1. Green Tea
Tea consumption, especially green tea, is associated with a significantly reduced risk for depression. Bursting with antioxidants and amino acids, green tea can help you overcome depression in a natural way.
A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that more frequent consumption of green tea was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in the older population living in the community.
A 2014 study published in Public Health Nutrition even shows that higher green tea consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. When compared with participants consuming just one cup of green tea per day, those consuming more than four cups per day had a 51 percent significantly lower prevalence of depressive symptoms after adjustment for potential confounders.
Theanine, the amino acid component of both green and black tea, is highly beneficial in psychiatric conditions. This amino acid has psychoactive properties that reduce stress and increase dopamine levels in the brain.
A 2014 study published in Nutritional Neuroscience highlights the positive neurobiological effects of the green tea constituent theanine and its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and bipolar disorder.
Enjoy 3 to 4 cups of green tea daily to help lift your mood and improve your overall health as well.
Another good food for fighting depression is almonds, mainly due to their high magnesium content. Magnesium influences production of serotonin, a “feel-good” brain chemical. This mineral also affects overall energy production.
In fact, a low magnesium level in the body is linked to depression and other mood disorders.
A 2006 study published in Medical Hypotheses found that magnesium deficiency is the cause of most major depression and related mental health problems. Magnesium-rich foods can help treat the depression symptoms to a great extent.
Another beneficial nutrient in almonds is selenium, which can help decrease depressive symptoms. Selenium plays a role in producing thyroid hormones to combat decreased thyroid functioning that is positively associated with depressive symptoms.
Additionally, almonds are a good source of zinc, a mineral that can protect brain cells from free-radical damage and boost neurotransmitter production and functioning.
Snacking on about 23 almonds daily will allow you to see positive changes in your mood. You can enjoy almonds as a healthy snack and also mix them with your favorite low-fat yogurt or choice of fruit.
Cold-water fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight depression.
People with depression usually have low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which support normal brain functioning by reducing inflammation.
The two main types of omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA are found in very high concentrations in brain tissue and play an important role in nerve function and mood regulation.
A 2004 study published in Lipids in Health and Disease reports that there is enough epidemiological, laboratory and clinical evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in certain cases of depression.
A 2009 study published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics reports that omega-3 fatty acids were more effective than a placebo for depression in both adults and children.
Another study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in 2014 reports that although there are many effective treatments for depression, dietary recommendations suggesting proper intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can result in substantial benefits.
Salmon is also good for overall health, as it improves circulation and reduces your overall risk of heart disease.
Along with salmon, other cold-water fish like tuna, sardines and anchovies are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate may increase serotonin levels in the body, which has qualities nearly identical to antidepressants. Also, it contains carbohydrates in the form of sugar, which signals the body to produce more serotonin.
In addition, dark chocolate slows down the production of stress hormones, which in turn reduces anxiety.
A 2011 study published in the ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry found that trainee nurses who consumed 50 grams of dark chocolate for three days had fewer symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. This study suggests that dark chocolate may have a more prominent role in improving emotional and mood generally.
Another 2012 study published in the Malaysian Journal of Psychiatry found that cancer patients who consumed 50 grams of dark chocolate for three days had fewer depression and anxiety symptoms.
Dark chocolate consumption may even reduce the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome, due to its flavonoid content.
To help treat your depression, satisfy your cravings with a sweet treat of 1 to 1½ ounces of dark chocolate a day.
This popular breakfast food packed with protein and other nutrients is another effective food for fighting depression.
Eggs are a good source of zinc, an essential micronutrient that is needed by the body to boost neurotransmitter production and functioning.
By eating foods rich in zinc like eggs, you can fight zinc deficiency as well as depression and possibly other disorders.
Along with zinc, eggs are one of the few foods that contain vitamin D, the deficiency of which is linked to depression and other mental health problems.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports that low vitamin D concentration is associated with depression, and highlights the need for an increase in vitamin D for the prevention and treatment of depression.
In addition, eggs are rich in vitamin B12, which helps form red blood cells and maintain a healthy nervous system.
When it comes to eating eggs, you can try hard-boiled eggs, omelets, scrambled eggs and so on.
Whenever you feel low or depressed, simply eat 1 or 2 bananas.
Bananas contain high amounts of tryptophan, which is known for raising the body’s serotonin level. This is just one mood-boosting component in bananas.
Also, it aids in producing tyrosine, the building block for norepinephrine and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters that can influence mood.
Additionally, bananas provide vitamin B6, which your body needs to manufacture serotonin from tryptophan.
They also contain four other B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and folate (B9).
Insomnia, another common symptom of depression, can be treated with bananas. The tryptophan in them can help you fall asleep more easily.
Hence, try to eat a banana followed by a glass of warm milk shortly before going to bed to enjoy better sleep.
The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in avocados make them an awesome choice for people suffering from depression. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), might increase the volume of gray matter in the parts of the brain responsible for regulating emotions.
Avocados also contain potassium, which is important for mental health and brain function. It aids transporting serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. In fact, a low potassium level can contribute to confusion, mood swings and depression.
A 1992 article published in Neuropsychobiology reported a relationship between sodium, magnesium and potassium in depressed patients.
In addition, the monounsaturated fat in avocados in the form of oleic acid can improve your mood, and help treat depression and postpartum depression.
Avocados are also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps reduce stress and induce relaxation.
Aim to eat ½ or 1 avocado daily, by including it in your salads or smoothies.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants that support proper brain functioning and improve cognitive function. They are very effective against depression.
In a recent 2016 study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers conducted a series of studies in rats and found that eating blueberries could help reduce the genetic and biochemical drivers behind depression and suicidal tendencies associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Eating blueberries can also trigger the growth of new brain cells. In fact, the flavonoids found in blueberries help dopamine neurons in the brain survive much longer.
Also, blueberries contain mood-boosting nutrients like B-complex as well as selenium, zinc and potassium. All these nutrients have a positive effect on neurologic and brain health.
When it comes to foods for fighting depression, dark leafy greens like spinach cannot be ignored.
Spinach is filled with nutrients, such as folic acid, magnesium, and zinc, which are important for brain health and fighting depression symptoms. These nutrients also ensure the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles.
Folic acid elevates a low mood and reduces fatigue. In fact, people who have low folic acid in the body are likely to experience depression symptoms, such as fatigue and apathy.
The folate in spinach aids serotonin regulation, which plays a major role in determining mood and regulating social behavior. Folate is also known to boost the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Magnesium, another nutrient in spinach, is needed for maintaining a proper serotonin level in the body. A low magnesium level can cause a drop in serotonin, leading to depression.
Try to eat more spinach by using it as a salad or green smoothie ingredient or adding it to your hot meals.
This versatile green veggie is also beneficial for people suffering from depression. Asparagus helps raise low folic acid levels that are linked to depression.
A 2002 study published in the BMJ states that folic acid is important in the nervous system at all ages, and its deficiency is linked to depression and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as vascular disease.
Asparagus also contains B vitamins, which are important for boosting mood. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reports that it is important to consider folic acid and vitamin B12 for treatment of depression.
Plus, asparagus contains tryptophan, which increases serotonin in the brain and helps prevent depression and anxiety. A 2009 study published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry states that tryptophan works as an evolutionarily conserved signal to brain serotonin.
It is time to consider adding more asparagus to your home-cooked dishes to ward off negative thoughts and feelings.