No single diet has proven its ability to relieve depression, though some have tried. Rather than relying on one specific food or nutrient to ease your depression symptoms, you should try integrating a variety of healthy foods that are good for beating depression.
You can introduce a new food once or twice a week, and before you know it, you’ll have a well-balanced and mood-boosting diet.
The good news is that the foods and nutrients listed below have a wider variety of benefits than just improving your depression symptoms. They are nutrient-dense and full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that will bring balance to your diet and leave you feeling healthier and happier in many ways.
6 Healthy Foods That Are Good For Beating Depression
Here are six healthy foods that will help you beat depression according to an expert.
1. Probiotic Foods
Gut health is becoming an area of health that is getting a lot of attention lately. This is because the gut contains beneficial bacteria, which play key roles in maintaining a healthy body and mind.
Probiotics work by replenishing good gut bacteria. When consumed either through diet or supplement form, they are a part of creating a sense of calm in the body and reducing depression symptoms.
How does this work? Great question.
The gut is lined with neurons, which are a key component of regulating mood. These neurons produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to mood. Therefore, keeping the gut’s lining healthy through probiotic-rich foods can be a helpful tool in your kit to improve symptoms of depression.
While probiotic supplements can certainly help in this process, probiotic foods are great as well due to the added benefits of other nutrients you’re receiving. Foods that have been fermented are richest in probiotics and include miso, kimchi, some yogurt, sauerkraut, and tempeh.
2. Vitamin D Fortified Foods
This category of foods is associated with improving depression symptoms primarily for those that are lacking in vitamin D specifically. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a full-blown vitamin D deficiency, but low levels and baseline can result in symptoms of depression.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can be confused for symptoms of other conditions or simply written off as being tired or stressed. The relief from correcting a vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly significant.
Another reason this occurs is the location of vitamin D receptors in the body. One major location is in the brain. When these receptors are lacking in vitamin D, there is a real impact on dopamine production.
Supplementing with vitamin D without your healthcare provider’s direction can be dangerous because it is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it can reach toxic levels in the body as it is stored rather than excreted like water soluble vitamins.
This is one reason why consuming vitamin D-rich foods is an excellent way to safely and slowly boost your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D includes fatty fish like cod liver, tuna, and salmon and fortified foods like orange juice and dairy or plant-based milk.
3. Tryptophan-Rich Foods
Don’t let this strange word throw you off. This category of mood-enhancing foods is some of the tastiest and most versatile.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means the body cannot make it on its own and, therefore, must be taken in through the diet. It is responsible for increasing serotonin, the happy hormone, which stabilizes mood by acting as a chemical messenger.
When tryptophan levels are low, serotonin levels are often simultaneously low. This results in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
One simple way to increase serotonin is the take in adequate amounts of tryptophan through the diet. These foods include eggs, soy products, cheese, nuts, and salmon.
Like nearly all the foods listed here, the foods in this list of tryptophan-rich foods are also rich in other nutrients and omega fatty acids—another nutrient linked to enhancing mood.
4. Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Toxins and free radicals are molecules and compounds either made by the body or introduced through our environments. This can include our food, breathing pollution, products we use on our bodies, and in the home.
These free radicals cause cell damage over time, and when this damage is allowed to occur and persist, all areas of health are at risk, including the brain. This destruction is referred to as oxidative damage and can be slowed or inhibited by taking in antioxidant-rich foods.
While free radicals and oxidative damage will likely always be a reality, the extent of their destruction can be slowed by having a diet rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidant foods are rated on a scale that goes by the synonym, ORAC, which stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. It means exactly what it sounds like—the food’s capacity to absorb free radicals.
Blueberries are commonly the first food to come to mind when considering an antioxidant-rich food item. This is pretty accurate considering blueberries are rated #3 on the ORAC scale of fruits at 2,400 units.
Some other antioxidant-rich foods to consider include kale, spinach, broccoli, red bell pepper, oranges, strawberries, raisins, cherries, and kiwi to name just a few.
5. Selenium-Rich Foods
Poor mood and low selenium have been correlated in several studies. Selenium is an essential trace mineral, meaning it must be taken in through the diet, and plays a wide range of roles in the body.
It is connected to mood by its responsibility in maintaining thyroid hormone metabolism. The good news is that selenium-dense foods are quite versatile and can cover a wide range of different diet patterns.
They include legumes, beans, dairy products, nuts and seeds, lean meat, seafood, and whole grains. This is a variety that can benefit plant-based dieters and those who prefer animal products.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Understanding the connection between omega-3 fatty acids and depression—even major depressive disorder—has become a focus for many scientists.
While it is still being researched to understand the mechanisms behind this connection, there is enough evidence to show the benefit of adequate omega-3 fatty acids in anyone’s diet.
Omega-3 can benefit the heart, joint health, mood, and longevity. Food sources of this essential fatty acid include fatty fish, such as mackerel and salmon, along with plant sources like flaxseed, nuts, and dark leafy greens.
An Active Lifestyle Is Also Important
While diet is an important component of fighting depression and enhancing mood, it is just one leg of a multifaceted approach. Lifestyle is another factor that can improve your mental health as well.
Getting physically active will increase your happy hormones and give you a sense of accomplishment. Many people find community in fitness groups, which can also positively impact your mood.
For those who can, it can be beneficial to evaluate your time and lifestyle to determine if physical activity is something you can include.
While each of these foods and nutrients can improve your mood and address depression or anxiety symptoms, you should always contact your health care provider. It is important to remember that there is a difference between simply feeling down and having clinical depression that must be addressed by a clinician.
If you’re noticing your mood is shifting and wanting to address it through diet and lifestyle, these food options are a great place to start. Evaluate your regular diet and food choices to see where some changes could be made to add these foods and nutrients.
There is essentially no downside to seeing how these foods and nutrients will impact your mood. They will likely improve your mood but will also impact your overall health for the better. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find a food you like that you wouldn’t have thought of trying.
Featured photo credit: Nathan Cowley via pexels.com