Seeking medical help is the first thing you should do if you are suffering from depression. Eating the right food should also be on the cards. When going through a mental disturbance, most of us tend to make food our last priority. This only contributes to deteriorating mental health.
That’s why we are here with a list of foods you can have while battling depression. It might sound bizarre, but feeding your brain the right kind of fuel can actually help improve your mood. So, scroll down and check them out!
9 Powerful Foods That Can Fight Depression
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Whole Grains
Walnuts have several nutrients that can improve mood. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like alpha-linolenic acid, that are critical for your brain’s functioning and physiology. Alpha-linolenic acid is the precursor of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (1).
DHA maintains membrane stability, speed of signal transduction, and modulation of serotonin and dopamine concentrations in your brain.
Balance in serotonin and dopamine, along with dietary melatonin levels, control your sleep cycle, depression, and mood swings. This effect is more pronounced in women because estrogen boosts DHA (1).
Walnuts are also rich sources of folate, which prevents cognitive impairment and depression (1).
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2. Green Leafy Vegetables
High glucocorticoids in the blood is a clinical indication and one of the major causes of depression. External supplementation of amino acids like glutamine is shown to curb such depression. Fortunately, green leafy vegetables are great natural sources of glutamine and glutamic acid (2).
Spinach, kale, chard, and lettuce are known to contain not only glutamine, but also folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The abundant phytonutrients in them act as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, thereby protecting your brain from oxidative stress-induced inflammation and damage (2), (3), (4).
Overall, green leafy veggies can boost glutamine levels, control blood corticosterone, and provide some much-needed micronutrients. This is why they have anti-stress and antidepressant effects on your brain (2), (3).
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Don’t get too excited – because we are not talking about the sweetened milk chocolate (sorry!). We are referring to cocoa-rich dark chocolate.
Chocolate triggers the release of endorphins and interacts with the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These systems control your hunger, mood, and stress (5).
Dark chocolate also contains theobromine – a compound that has a mild stimulatory effect on your brain (5).
Anandamide is another lipid found in chocolate that gives you a ‘happy-high’ feeling. This compound stimulates the production of dopamine that promotes the feeling of well-being (6).
Surprisingly, chocolate also contains two other chemicals that delay the breakdown of anandamide in the brain, thus prolonging the feeling of well-being and happiness it creates (6). This is exactly what depressed individuals need!
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Onions are rich in dietary flavonoids that have proven antidepressant effects (7). They also contain quercetin, which is a potent antioxidant. This flavonol increases the availability of neurotransmitters like 5-hydroxytryptamine and norepinephrine.
During depression, the levels of these neurotransmitters are abnormal. Onion flavonoids help in lowering depression by regulating these neurotransmitter levels, energy metabolism parameters, and cytokine levels and reducing oxidative stress (7).
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Blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and other members of the berry family are very potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. They all contain varying amounts of polyphenols like anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, flavones, flavonoids, and catechins (10).
Apart from chlorogenic acid, one of the most abundant polyphenols that berries (mainly, blueberries) contain is resveratrol. This natural compound has been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant effects in experimental models using animals (11).
This could be because resveratrol may alter the inflammatory process of brain centers involved in mood regulation (like hippocampus) (12).
The antioxidant effect of resveratrol can also prevent the cognitive decline associated with age-related depression (12).
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7. Whole Grains
Whole grains are great sources of micronutrients. Out of all the minerals they offer, zinc, selenium, and magnesium have the highest impact on your brain and its activity centers (13).
Adding the right amount of zinc to your diet can lower the serum cortisol concentration, increase the expression of hippocampal factors, like the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and prevent lipid peroxidation (13).
Magnesium and selenium take care of the serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine equilibrium, boost hippocampal activity, and curb inflammation of other active centers that could be controlling the severity of depression (13).
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The active compound in turmeric is curcumin. Several studies have demonstrated the antidepressant effects of curcumin. It primarily functions as an monoamine oxidase (MAO-A and MAO-B types) inhibitor (17).
Monoamine oxidase is responsible for the degradation of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine – neurotransmitters that regulate your mood. Therefore, inhibiting this enzyme increases the availability of these neurotransmitters in the synapse.
In other words, curcumin prolongs the action of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, thus creating an antidepressant effect (17).
Another reason for curcumin’s antidepressant effect is its small molecular size. Since it is small and chemically polar, curcumin penetrates the blood-brain barrier and acts on the prime action centers. This is how turmeric promotes neurogenesis in the hippocampus and boosts its size in adults. An active hippocampus is inversely linked to depression (17).
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Avocado is rich in magnesium, and is your brain’s best friend. It helps in the timely release of neurotransmitters, regulates thirst, hunger, mood, sexual drive, and sleep cycle, and reduces anxiety and depression (18).
Avocado is also a rich source of folate. This is important to note because low levels of folate have the potential to increase the risk of depression (19).
The B vitamins found in avocado trigger the release of the “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. This can help you manage the symptoms of anxiety (20).
Can’t agree more with this quote by Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” More so after reading this detailed list of depression-fighting foods, right?
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If you are going through the lowest phase of your life, don’t worry – you are NOT alone. Seek professional help and talk to your family and friends. In addition to medication, you can also include these foods in your diet to manage the symptoms of depression.
Let us know in the comments section below how helpful these foods were. You can also leave your questions about this topic, and we’ll get back to you.
More power to you!
1. “Effects of Walnut Consumption on Mood in…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine
2. “Anti-Stress and Anti-Depressive Effects of Spinach Extracts…” Journal of Clinical Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
3. “Five Mind Boosting Foods” Mass Public Health Blog, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
4. “Green leafy vegetables in diets with 25:1 omega…” Lipids in Health and Disease, US National Library of Medicine
5. “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavonol and its…” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine
6. “Chocolate on the Brain” Serendip, Bryn Mawr College
7. “Antidepressant Flavonoids and Their Relationship with Oxidative Stress” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, US National Library of Medicine
8. “Hallucinogenic drug found in ‘magic mushrooms’ eases…” The Hub, John Hopkins University
9. “Psilocybin” United States Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S Department of Justice
10. “Antioxidant Capacity of Berry Crops, Culinary Herbs…” Asian Plants, U.S Department of Agriculture
11. “Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Anti-depressant Effects…” Molecular Neurobiology, US National Library of Medicine
12. “Antidepressant Effects of Resveratrol in an Animal…” Behavioural Brain Research, US National Library of Medicine
13. “Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium, and Depression: A Review…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine
14. “Evaluation of the Potential Antidepressant Effects of Soyabean…” Menopause, US National Library of Medicine
15. “Dopamine mediated antidepressant effect of Mucuna pruriens…” Ayu, US National Library of Medicine
16. “Vitamin D as potential antidepressant in outpatients with…” International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine
17. “An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine
18. “Phytoserotonin: a review” Plant Signaling and Behavior, US National Library of Medicine
19. “Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age” The British Journal of Psychiatry : The Journal of Mental Science, US National Library of Medicine
20. “Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing
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