Let’s face it; food has the power to make us feel good. Certain foods give you the warm and fuzzies because they bring back memories of a person or time gone by. Some foods just taste oh-so good practically leave you moaning in ecstasy. But that’s just a short-term boost to your mood. Here are some foods that have been shown to actually help with depression.
How Diet and Depression are Linked
The link between diet and mental health has led to a field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry.
There’s mounting evidence that diet modification has the potential to prevent or treat mental health issues.
It’s all pretty simple. Eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and little meat has been shown to reduce the risk of depression. On the flipside, processed foods, red meat, refined grains, sweets, and high-fat dairy has been associated with a higher risk of depression.
The Depression Diet
There isn’t a specific depression diet, per say. But there are two diet plans that appear to help with depression.
If you want a specific plan, look at the Mediterranean and the DASH Diets (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Both have both been shown to have benefits for depression and several other conditions.
The Mediterranean Diet focuses on healthy fats, mostly from fatty fish and olive oil. The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, but focuses on reducing salt and sugar intake.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging found interesting results. In short, it showed that those who ate a Mediterranean diet had fewer depressive symptoms.
In 2017, researchers compared the effects of dietary intervention with a modified Mediterranean diet and social support for depression. The results of the study showed the participants in the dietary intervention group had a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms compared to those in the social support group.
Again, those who improved their diet the most had the best results when it came to depression.
There have been similar findings in studies looking at the effects of the DASH diet.
What foods Help with Depression
Without further ado, here are some foods that have been shown to help with depression.
Depression Fighting Food #1: Fish
Wild-caught, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna (not canned), and trout are high in omega-3 fats.
Omega-3 is beneficial for brain health and may affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating mood.
A 2015 meta-analysis of over 150,000 people concluded that high fish consumption significantly lowers the risk for depression.
Depression Fighting Food #2: Olive oil
Olive oil may reduce the risk of depression and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety for a couple of reasons. First, extra-virgin olive oil is rich in Omega-3. Which has been found in various studies to have a positive influence on depression.
Olive oil is also rich in fiber and some evidence suggests that dietary fiber intake reduces depressive symptoms.
Depression Fighting Food #3: Beans and legumes
Chickpeas and lentils contain high levels of zinc and folate, which have been used as effective supplements for treating depression. Black-eyed peas are also high in folate.
Beans are a good source of protein and help stabilize blood sugar. Which can also have a positive influence on your mood.
Depression Fighting Food #4: Leafy greens
Leafy greens are another excellent source of folate, which we already mentioned has been used as an effective depression treatment.
Kale, spinach, collards, and romaine lettuce are excellent sources of folate. Dress these up with some lemon juice or orange slices to get even more folate bang for your buck.
Also Read: 5 Foods this RD would never eat
Depression Fighting Food #5: Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with omega-3 and protein.
Though most nuts are good for depression, walnuts appear to be particularly good for depression. Research has linked eating ¼ cup of walnuts every day to a reduction in depressive symptoms and higher levels of optimism, hope, and interest in activities. And they make great snacks.
As for seeds, chia and flaxseed are the way to go thanks to high amounts of omega-3 fats. Pumpkin and squash seeds are great to eat because they’re high in tryptophan. Which is an essential amino acid that plays a role in serotonin production.
Foods to Avoid
Some foods can mess with your mood and worsen depression or increase the risk for developing it.
Fair warning – many of these foods are often the first ones we reach for when we’re feeling low. Things like chips, cookies, and fast foods may taste good, but aren’t good for us, mentally.
If you’re dealing with depression, cutting back on or completely eliminating the following foods from your diet may help:
- sugar, including forms of it like corn syrup, fructose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- refined grains, including white pasta, rice, and bread
- alcohol, which is a depressant
Basically, steering clear of processed foods and fast foods can help you manage symptoms of depression.
Several studies have suggested that eating lots of processed food can make us feel worse. These foods are are usually high in refined sugar and carbs, and saturated fats.
These types of foods have been linked to increased inflammation — which is something that CBD could potentially help with. Additionally, processed foods cause dramatic spikes and crashes in blood sugar, as well as impaired brain function.
What you eat can definitely impact your mental health—for better or worse. If you’re not ready for a complete diet overhaul, take it one step at a time. Just adding some of the foods shown to help with depression may help you manage your symptoms. And the better you start to feel, the easier it will be to continue your progress. Good luck!
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance health and lifestyle writer that has written for Healthline, Medical News Today and Verily Magazine just to name a few.