Whether you’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression or just feel blue once in a while, making good dietary choices can help elevate your mood. Considering that roughly 300 million adults worldwide are affected by depression, understanding the nutritional factors that play a role in mental health can empower you to adopt eating habits that support both body and mind. Here are some of the best foods to incorporate on a regular basis.
Oxidative stress caused by free radicals has been shown to play a role in depression. Foods such as berries and artichokes are very high in antioxidants, which counteract free radicals. When it comes to berries, be sure to choose organic. Conventionally grown berries are known to contain pesticide residues because of their fleshy, soft skin.
Examples: Blueberries, raspberries, Goji berries.
Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are a good source of both magnesium and folate. Magnesium is crucial to many functions in the body, including the nervous system. Folate is involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin (sometimes called the happy chemical), dopamine (which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) and norepinephrine (which gets your blood pumping and heart pounding).
Examples: Kale, spinach, collard greens.
Research has shown that women who eat red meat a few times per week cut their risk for depression in half. Grass-fed meats contain more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meats. Omega-3 fatty acids also help your heart and brain.
These nuts are a great source of selenium, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties. Walnuts are also a good plant source of omega-3 fatty acids.
They are a top source of the amino acid tryptophan
(yes, even more than turkey!), which is a precursor to
serotonin. Serotonin plays a big role in regulating our moods.
These foods contain beneficial bacteria that help keep the gut in balance. The gut-brain connection has been a focus of research in recent years. One example, tempeh, may have additional benefits related to mental health because it is a good vegetarian source of protein as well as providing vitamin B12, which is produced during the fermentation process. A deficiency of B12 has been linked to depression.
Examples: Yogurt, kombucha and tempeh.
Fish is the best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep inflammation in check. Chronic inflammation has been linked to depression. Fish is also a great source of protein, which contains the amino acids needed for neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the body that help regulate mood.
Examples: Salmon, Atlantic mackerel, sardines.