Food can serve many purposes. It can be an excuse for social gatherings, a fun outing, a way to feel better physically, or an option for combatting disease. People often don't mention, however, that foods that can help depression and anxiety. Food has an incredible impact on the mind; eating well can help you live longer and age well, and proper nutrition can also help balance your emotions and mood.
Just like foods can be unhealthy for your body, certain foods can help worsen your emotions while others can help keep them stable. If you suffer from depression, it can be powerful to be armed with the knowledge of which foods can help you versus which foods can make your symptoms worse. Foods high in sugar and processed trans fat can end up making you feel down, while foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients, especially protein, can have you feeling more upbeat and positive, according to studies published in the National British Journal of Psychiatry and the Public Library of Science, respectively.
Though eating one particular food here and there won't suddenly make you happy, eating a overall healthy, well-balanced diet can impact your mood. Though everyone is different, and one diet may be successful for one person and not for the other, I talked to Christy Shatlock, RD at Bistro MD about foods that have been researched and found to be helpful in combatting depression and anxiety and, as well as boosting your overall mood.
Salmon and other fatty fish such as tuna and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of healthy polyunsaturated fat that plays a role in mood regulation. "Omega-3 fatty acids can help to increase neurotransmitters, like serotonin, in your brain so it makes sense that it can help your mood," Christy Shatlock, RD at Bistro MD tells Bustle over email. Many studies have found that not only are omega-3 supplements effective at treating depression, but in places around the world where people eat a lot of fish, depression rates are significantly lower.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli all contain folate, a B vitamin that may help with producing neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, says Shatlock. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience found that increasing your folate intake can help alleviate depression, as some people may be folate-deficient and not even realize it. If salad isn't your thing, other foods such as whole grains and bananas are also good sources of folate.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains, much like fish and leafy greens, help boost serotonin levels in your body. Though many people often turn to a low-carbohydrate diet to try to lose weight, people who consume too few complex carbohydrates have more problems with mood than those who have a healthy amount in their diet, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Additionally, fortified grains contain vitamin D, which may also play a role in depression, especially in the winter months. "Many studies have found a link between low levels of vitamin D, the vitamin you can get from the sun, and depression," says Shatlock.
4. Lean Protein
Lean proteins such as chicken and turkey are rich in a nutrient called tryptophan, an amino acid that directly converts into serotonin, according to an article published in Psychopharmacology Bulletin. Increasing your intake of these tryptophan-heavy foods can in turn boost your natural levels of serotonin, which can be especially powerful for those who are genetically prone to depression. To top it off, consuming a high-protein diet can also stabilize your blood sugar levels. "When a lean protein is eaten with a carbohydrate, it will help to prevent that big rise and fall in the blood sugar, which in turn will boost your mood and energy levels," says Shatlock.
Foods such as blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, and strawberries contain a nutrient called anthocyanin, which has been known to fight depression as well as other mental illnesses. "Anthocyanins act as an antioxidant in your body and can help you produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can help boost your mood," says Shatlock. Studies have even found that foods like berries contain similar chemicals to prescription mood-stabilizing drugs.
Including these foods in your diet can help assure you are getting the proper nutrients needed to help stabilize your mood, but in general, sticking to a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and properly raised meats and poultry is always your best bet.