Depression is a common mood disorder that many Americans experience throughout their lives. Depression ranges from mild to severe and can be triggered by genetics, hormones, illnesses, stress and even your diet.
Depression affects your mood, ability to handle daily activities and ability to think clearly. It can even lead to suicide.
Can food cure depression? Researchers have developed an “Antidepressant Food Score” ranking 34 different nutrients as to their effectiveness in treating and preventing depression. Twelve of these are known to have positive affects on depressive disorders.
A word of advice. Don’t change depression medications without consulting your doctor first! You may feel better, but you must wean off depression meds carefully. Read on to discover foods that may help you fight depression.
11.B vitamins-folate,B12 and B6
The array of vitamins Bs are very important. They can prevent some birth defects, help you to convert food into energy, and help with brain functions, among many other uses. Dark leafy green vegetables are particularly rich in folate. People with low folate levels often have depression or poor anti-depressant response.
Folate: watercress, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, kale, lettuce (not iceberg!), and swiss chard
B-12: fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk products
B-6: seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds
10.Vitamin D and Resulting Hormones
Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to depression. Scientists believe that Vitamin D help convert amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. Try to eat Vitamin D instead of taking supplements but limit supplemental intake to 600IUs for adults under 70.
Tryptophan: nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs
Seratonin: eggs, cheese, pineapples, tofu, salmon, nuts, seeds, and turkey
Vitamin D: fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, Vitamin D fortified foods
9.Zinc, Magnesium, and Selenium
Zinc is important for proper immune system function and cellular metabolism. Researchers don’t know if low zinc levels cause depression or depression causes deficiency. Magnesium regulates muscle and nerve function. Selenium is needed for thyroid function.
Zinc: oysters, red meat, crab and lobster, baked beans, pork, poultry, nuts, oatmeal, and beans
Magnesium: nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, brown rice, oatmeal, spinach, whole grain bread and yogurt
Selenium: brazil nuts (8 per week), fatty fish, ham, red meat, poultry, brown rice, eggs, beans, spinach
8.Beta-Carotenes and Vitamin A
Beta-carotenes give brilliant color to fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, apricots, cantaloupes, and carrots. They are anti-oxidants and help remove free radicals from your body. Your body also converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Increasing intake of beta-carotenes has been shown to improve depression and lower anxiety.
Beta-carotenes: carrots, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, collards, peaches, pumpkin and other squashes, dark leafy greens, sweet potato,
Vitamin A: beef and lamb liver, cod liver oil, fatty fish, goat cheese, eggs
7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most important fats you can eat. You need them for brain and heart health, to fight chronic inflammation, and a host of other benefits. Every time we refer to fatty fish, we are talking about oily fish like salmon and you can’t find a better omega-3 source than fatty fish.
6. Fermented Foods and Probiotics
As anyone who has had an upset stomach knows, your gut has a direct line to your brain (and visa versa). Serotonin, a mood boosting hormone discussed above, is produced in the gut. A happy gut creates lots of serotonin. The probiotics – live good bacteria and yeasts – in fermented foods may fight depression and anxiety.
5. Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, and Dopamine
Tyrosine is an amino acid that your body uses to create dopamine. This hormone controls your brains pleasure center. There may be a link between low levels of tyrosine and depression.
You can also create tyrosine from phenylalanine. You can increase production of dopamine (and serotonin) by exercising, so help your diet create more dopamine by working out.
Tyrosine and Phenylalanine: parmesan cheese, soy foods, lean beef, pork, and lamb, fatty fish, poultry, seeds, nuts, eggs, beans, whole grains, bananas, and avocados
Flavonoids give plants brilliant colors, like carotenoids, and there are more than 6,000. They are antioxidants that fight chronic inflammation and boost your immune system.
Researchers think that removing free radicals helps fight depression. If you like chocolate, dark chocolate (75% or higher cocoa) is high in flavonoids and may lower risk of depression particularly in older women.
Flavonoids: dark chocolate, berries, dark beans (black or kidney beans, etc.), red wine (in moderation), and black, green and red teas.
3. Potassium and Iron
Low potassium levels are associated with depression and are linked with serotonin pathways. Increasing your potassium levels may have an immediate result in depressed feelings. Iron is important in healthy blood and red blood cell levels. Women tend to have more iron deficiency than men. Men should talk to their doctor before supplementing iron.
Iron: shellfish, spinach, liver and organ meat, legumes, seeds, and lean red meat
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that lowers levels of chronic inflammation that is linked to depression. Researchers found that even a tiny increase in Vitamin E levels can reduce depression and anxiety. If you are stressed and depressed, Vitamin E may be the most powerful stress buster you can find.
Vitamin E: wheat germ oil, seeds, nuts, hazelnut oil, fatty fish, avocado, sweet red peppers, lobster, mango, berries, and apricots
1. Vitamin C
Everyone knows that Vitamin C is important in fighting off colds, preventing the age-old scourge of scurvy, and preventing strokes. Turns out a deficiency can cause neurological damage. Adding Vitamin C and improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. In fact, in mice Vitamin C acted as well as Prozac for stress-related depression. Who knows, maybe it works as well in humans!
Vitamin C: oranges, grapefruit, guava, sweet yellow peppers, kale, kiwis, broccoli, persimmons, strawberries, and chili peppers
You’ll notice that a lot of these foods show up on several lists. Eating them as minimally processed as possible for best results.
Studies show that eliminating sweets, refined and fried food, processed meats, and sugary drinks while upping intake of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil, and nuts has decreased depression symptoms in subjects by 33%. People in the study getting only social support only 8% reported improvements.
If you need more guidance on what to eat, check out the Mediterranean diet plans available online. And remember, these food lists are not exhaustive, just representative.