8 Mood Foods that Fight Depression
Did you know that the foods you eat can either fire up overactivity in your brain’s limbic system (emotional center), which brain scans show is linked to depression, or it can calm activity to promote more positive moods? Increasingly, researchers are concluding that people with mental health disorders, such as depression, are consuming diets that are lacking in key nutrients for brain health. A growing body of evidence suggests that nutritional treatment—aka, eating targeted foods—may help prevent, treat, or improve depression, as well as other conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADD/ADHD.
The scientific community is finally beginning to see how food is so strongly linked to mood and mental health. In 2015, a group of 18 scientists concluded that “the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.”
Here are 8 foods you should include in your diet if you want to boost your mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
1. Berries: The Antioxidant Answer
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries are “smart” carbohydrates that are packed with nutrients that balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings. Colorful berries are also full of mood benefits, providing nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A 2009 study on the impact of antioxidant therapy on depression found that people who had been treated with antioxidants for two years significantly lowered their depression score.
2. Water: The Secret Mood Booster
Your brain is comprised of 80% water and research shows that being even mildly dehydrated can negatively impact moods. In both women and men, it can make you feel more anxious, tense, depressed, or angry, in addition to sapping your energy levels and lowering your ability to concentrate. Staying adequately hydrated can help optimize moods, motivation, and energy levels. And according to a 2018 study in the World Journal of Psychiatry, drinking plain old H20 is associated with a decrease in depression and anxiety,
3. Lean Protein: Building Blocks for Neurotransmitters
Lean protein—such as chicken, turkey, beef, fish, and lamb—provides essential amino acids, which are precursors for neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which play an important role in mental health. A 2019 study on nutrition and depression in adolescents shows that low intake of amino acids has been linked to reduced synthesis of these neurotransmitters and consequently, low moods and aggression. For optimal brain health, choose hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, and grass-fed animal proteins.
4. Salmon: A Healthy Dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Did you know that 60% of the solid weight of your brain is fat? Low-fat diets are not good for your brain or your mood. Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, and a wealth of research has shown that these fats can reduce symptoms of depression. A 2009 review of three studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in major depression in adults, depression in children, and depression in bipolar disorder found that EPA (a form of omega-3s) reduced symptoms in all three types of depression with no side effects. When shopping, opt for wild salmon, not the farm-raised variety.
5. Kimchi: Probiotic Power
Kimchi supports healthy gut bacteria, which is tightly linked to mood. The gut—your gastrointestinal tract (GI)—is often called the second brain because it is lined with about 100 million neurons. And 75% of the body’s neurotransmitters—including feel-good ones like serotonin— are produced in the gut. A 2017 review of the existing research suggests that treatment with probiotics can alleviate depressive symptoms.
6. Saffron: Nature’s Antidepressant
Herbs and spices are as powerful as medicines. In multiple studies, a saffron extract was found to be as effective as antidepressant medication in treating people with major depression.
7. Avocados: Oleic Acid Attacks Bad Moods
This popular green fruit contains healthy fats that fuel brainpower and is high in oleic acid. A 2009 study that followed 4,856 adults for a decade found that women who consumed the most oleic acid were less than half as likely to suffer from severe depression.
8. Dark Leafy Greens: Anti-Inflammatory Action
Whether you prefer kale, spinach, or broccoli, be sure to fuel up on these nutrient-dense vegetables. In addition to being chock-full of vitamins and minerals, they fight inflammation, which has been linked to depression, according to research in JAMA Psychiatry.
At Amen Clinics, our brain imaging work has helped us see the powerful impact food has on brain function and on conditions, such as depression. We take an integrative approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes looking at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of your life to identify areas that can be optimized. This includes nutritional coaching, natural supplements, and many other of the least toxic, most effective solutions.
If you’re suffering from symptoms of depression and want a whole-person approach rather than just pills, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.