One of the most overlooked aspects of mental health is nutrition. Food plays a significant role in our physical health, as well as our mental and emotional health. When you are struggling with depression, it can feel a bit overwhelming to think about eating the right foods.
However, some of these small changes in your diet may help to decrease your symptoms and have a positive effect on your daily life.
Whatever your dietary preferences, there are a variety of options that can provide mood-boosting benefits:
Wild-caught fish, especially the more oily types such as salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, and tuna (not canned), are great choices to help fight depression. Why? Because they are rich sources of Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats help to build connections between brain cells as well as build and strengthen the receptor sites for neurotransmitters.
So, an increase in Omega-3’s in your diet can help lead to increased serotonin production and improvement of mood.
Although other nuts such as cashews, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts are helpful in supplementing Omega-3 fats, walnuts seem to be the winner in this category. Walnuts are known to support overall brain health, being one of the highest plant-based sources of Omega-3 and a great source of protein to help keep blood sugar levels at a healthy balance.
Beans are a great source of protein and fibre, both of which help to maintain stable and consistent blood sugar levels. In addition to helping minimise the blood sugar spikes and dips that can affect our mood, beans are also great sources of folate.
Folate is a B vitamin that helps the body use vitamin B12 and amino acids, helping the body to detox cells and create new cells. Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) are very high in folate, offering over 100 percent of the daily recommended value in just a half cup.
Pinto beans are another great choice, with a half cup serving offering 37 percent of the daily recommended value of folate.
Chicken and turkey are both great sources of lean protein that can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, keeping your mood well-balanced during the day. In addition to being trusted sources of lean protein, turkey and chicken breasts are known to provide high amounts of tryptophan.
Again, this is beneficial because it helps create serotonin, which assists us in maintaining healthy sleep and a balanced mood. Just 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast offers 123 percent of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.
Many of us already eat chicken breast regularly but incorporating more lean protein such as turkey and chicken during your week can help you increase your intake of tryptophan.
Flaxseed and chia seeds are wonderful additions to your diet if you struggle with depression. As with some of the other foods mentioned, these two types of seeds are particularly great sources of Omega-3 fats.
Just one tablespoon of chia seeds provides approximately 61 percent of your daily recommended amount of Omega-3 and one tablespoon of flaxseed provides roughly 39 percent of the daily recommendation. As you can see, these two seeds pack a powerful punch if you are looking for small ways to improve your diet and your mood.
Pumpkin and squash seeds are a great addition for increasing tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that produces niacin and helps create serotonin. 8
Yes, you need to eat your veggies! Although this is important for everyone, eating vegetables can be of great help if you struggle with depression. Leafy green vegetables, in particular, are good sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is one of the three main types of Omega-3 fatty acids, the other two being DHA and EPA.
When considering vegetables to help increase your Omega-3’s, the powerful players tend to be Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, and watercress.
Folate, fiber, and other nutrients also make vegetables, especially the darker leafy greens, a wonderful choice when looking for foods to help improve and stabilise mood.
What other foods do you think can help fight depression?