Looking for a new weapon in the fight against depression? These foods have shown a lot of promise as alternative depression treatments.
A number of lifestyle factors can contribute to depression, but one that’s often overlooked is what you put in your mouth. “Diet plays a huge role in depression,” says Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist and author of Vigor: 7 Days to Unlimited Energy, Focus, and Well-Being.
Do you crave sweet, salty, and fatty foods when you’re feeling blue? You’re not alone. But, says Dr. Talbot, “If we eat better foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish, we short-circuit the junk food cravings and have higher energy levels and sharper mental focus.” Should you add these good-mood foods to your diet?
Foods That Fight Depression
Looking for an alternative depression treatment? Most lean sources of protein are good for beating depression, but turkey has the edge due to its relatively higher levels of a chemical called tryptophan.
“Turkey is the best food we know of because of its tryptophan content,” says Robin H-C, a life coach, behaviorist, and author of Thinking Your Way to Happy! “This chemical stimulates serotonin production, which is a natural feel-good chemical your body produces.”
When eaten in moderation, most nuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as protein. But walnuts get the edge when it comes to lessening the symptoms of depression because they also are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. “The omega-3s in walnuts support overall brain health,” says Robin H-C.
6. 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, says Talbott. He adds that 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.
5. Low-Fat Dairy
Skim milk, yogurt, low-fat cheeses, and other dairy products are rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein. These are great for your body for many reasons, including fighting depression.
“Low-fat dairy is the richest dietary source of two powerhouse nutrients, calcium and vitamin D, as well as specific peptides (proteins) that induce a sense of well-being and relaxation,” says Talbott.
4. Whole Grains
When looking for foods that fight depression, focus on the healthy, high-fiber carbohydrates found in whole grains and you can feel good and do your body good at the same time.
“Complex carbohydrates are wonderful foods to improve mood quickly,” says Debbie Mandel, a stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress. “Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta are all good choices. They help the body release serotonin.”
3. Green Tea
Researchers know that green tea is an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, but its depression-fighting properties can be traced to an amino acid known as theanine, says Talbott.
“Theanine is an amino acid naturally found in tea leaves that provides an anti-stress relaxation benefit to tea drinkers,” he adds. “The presence of theanine in green tea is thought to be responsible for the observation that caffeine intake in coffee drinkers (who aren’t getting theanine) is more apt to result in tension as opposed to the ‘relaxed alertness’ more common to tea drinkers.”
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,” says Talbott.
“Famously used in spicy Indian and Thai dishes, turmeric contains the active compounds turmerones and curcuminoids, which have been associated with a wide range of health benefits.”
1. Dark Chocolate
Can chocolate be considered among the foods that fight depression? Current thinking is that the dark variety really can help boost your mood.
“Dark chocolate helps to release serotonin and relaxes the blood vessels of the cardiovascular system,” says Mandel. Just remember that dark chocolate is incredibly calorie-dense, with about 150 calories per ounce, so eat just one small piece at a time.