Last updated on April 12, 2021
There are many factors that can cause or contribute to the development of depression. Losing a loved one, getting fired, getting out of a long relationship, various stressful events and an imbalance in the brain chemistry are some of the most common factors that cause depression. Individuals with a depressed mood generally experience hopelessness, sadness, helplessness, guilt, anger, emptiness, and worthlessness.
Depression doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. For example, some people may experience a loss in appetite, while others may find themselves constantly overeating. Individuals with depression generally have a hard time concentrating, making decisions, and remembering details.
Even though depression is widespread and has been studied for a long time, there still isn’t any cure for it. More than 120 million people in the world suffer from depression, making it the leading global cause of disability. In the United States, the numbers are even more haunting. Namely, at least 6% of the adult population suffers from depression, and 10% are on antidepressants.
The good news is that depression is completely treatable, your doctor will create treatment plant custom tailored for you, but there are many things you can also do on your own to get better. Some of these methods include, stress reduction techniques, exercise, meditation, and diet changes can also help as well. Believe it or not, your diet has a huge impact on not only your physical, but mental health as well. The way you take care of yourself will determine how long the depressive symptoms will last.
How Your Diet Impacts Depression
Will proper nutrition provide you with a way to deal with your depression and help you feel better? No one knows for sure. Mental health disorders are incredibly complex, just like the foods we eat and the ways our bodies interact with them.
Scientists are still working on finding out just how the brain works and how nutrients contribute to better mental health. However, many experts agree that when the body gets the nutrition it needs, all internal processes function at their best, and WebMD supports the notion that healthy eating will definitely help you feel healthier mentally and is one of the best self-help methods for depression.
Even though we don’t fully understand how the brain works yet, we do know enough to figure out exactly why nutrition may be able to help you with depression.
In order for the brain to work efficiently, it needs a lot of energy and the right nutrients. A study conducted by the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health of the University College London found that consuming processed foods that don’t contain a lot of nutrients increases the risk of becoming depressed by 60%.
1| Antioxidants Help Battle Depression
If you eat foods that are high in antioxidants, you will protect your brain from harmful molecules known as free radicals, which can lead to aging, cell damage, and numerous other health problems.
Even though you won’t be able to get rid of these harmful chemicals completely by maintaining a healthy diet, you will make them “weaker” and even prevent them from attacking the other cells in your body.
Some of the best sources of antioxidants include nuts and seeds, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, spinach, peaches, and more.
2| Watch Your Weight
People who are overweight are more likely to become depressed. However, know that people who are depressed are also more likely to become obese. Thankfully, if you eat healthy, then you might not have to worry about either of those two things.
If you don’t have healthy eating habits, then you should know that your health might get worse over time, since depression raises the risk of substance abuse. This mental disorder will interfere with your sleep, mood, and motivation, which will definitely make it harder for you to make healthy choices later on.
3| Consume More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to a study published by the Integrative Care Centre of Toronto, omega-3 fatty acids have a huge impact on depression.
To be exact, a low omega-3 fats intake is linked to a higher risk of depression. This isn’t really that surprising considering that our brains are mostly made up of fat. Not to mention that 20% of the said fat come from omega-3 fatty acids.
In order to improve your brain function and reduce the risk of depression, consider eating more omega-3 rich foods, such as walnuts, fatty wild-caught fish, flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, fish roe, seafood, spinach and soybeans.
4| B-Complex Vitamins
B-Complex vitamins, most notably vitamin B12, are needed to make sure your neurological system runs smoothly. When you consume more vitamin B12, you will feel refreshed and notice an elevated mood.
You can increase your intake of this vitamin by eating more raw dairy products, such as goat’s milk, kefir, raw cheese, amasai, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, shellfish, liver, eggs, tofu, soymilk and poultry.
To increase your intake of other B-vitamins like folate, you should consume more dried herbs, sunflower seeds, and spinach.
5| The Power of Amino Acids
Serotonin, a very powerful neurotransmitter that’s responsible for making you feel good, is actually made from an amino acid known as tryptophan. Insufficient intake of this amino acid will increase the chances of depression.
In fact, if you consume really low amounts of tryptophan during one day, you’ll notice that you’ll be in an incredibly bad mood in a matter of hours.
The good news is that tryptophan is actually found in foods such as beans, fish, meat, and eggs.
6| Watch Your Sugar Intake
People who are suffering from diabetes are more likely to also suffer from depression. In fact, a study conducted back in 2005 found that there’s a connection between insulin resistance and depressive symptoms.
Since sugar is able to cause a decrease in your insulin sensitivity (this is what actually leads to diabetes), it comes as no surprise that it will increase your risk of suffering from depression. Not to mention that it will also lead to some hormonal changes, which will have a big impact on your emotional stability. This is why people who are already suffering from depression should immediately stop consuming it.
When you consume sugar, it will cause peaks and troughs in your blood glucose levels. This will cause symptoms associated with depression such as dizziness, insomnia, irritability, fatigue, excessive sweating, forgetfulness, blurred vision, and poor concentration. In order for the brain to function properly, it needs an even supply of glucose, which it won’t get if you eat too much sugar.
High sugar intake is not only linked to depression, but to anxiety and aggressive behavior as well.
7| Increase Your Chromium Intake
Chromium is a mineral that helps in controlling blood sugar and high cholesterol. It is vital for your mental health, since insulin isn’t able to work properly without this mineral.
Considering that we already learned why insulin is important to your mental health, you should really consider consuming more of this mineral.
One of the best sources of chromium is broccoli, but it’s also found in grapes, garlic, potatoes, grass-fed beef, basil, oranges, green beans, and apples.
8| The Importance Of Vitamin D
In order for your brain to function properly, you will need to watch your vitamin D levels. If you’re suffering from vitamin D deficiency, know that you’re risking suffering from depression as well. This vitamin is fat-soluble and isn’t typically found in foods. You can also get Vitamin D naturally by spending time in the sun as it is produced endogenously when sunlight strikes your skin.
Some of the few foods that actually contain vitamin D include fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, foods fortified with vitamin D, including milk, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals, beef liver, egg yolks and cheese.
9| Increase Your Selenium Intake
When it comes to cognitive function, selenium is one of the most important essential minerals. It’s noted for helping make special protein known as antioxidant enzymes. This creates an antioxidant balance in our body’s cells.
The way this affects depression is still unclear, but we know for certain that there is a link between depression and low selenium levels. In fact, there isn’t even clear evidence that suggests taking selenium supplements will help your with depression either.
In order for selenium to have a positive effect on your mood, you will need to consume it by eating foods that contain this mineral.
Some examples of foods high in selenium include Brazil nuts, halibut, yellowfin tuna, grass fed beef, turkey, beef liver, chicken, sardines, eggs and spinach
10| Supplement With Caution
Real food is always the best source of the nutrients your body needs. You need to do your homework before taking supplements and always speak with your doctor or a nutritionist.
Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the FDA and manufacturers can claim anything they want on their product labels. Some of the better supplements on the market include probiotics, B-complex vitamin supplements, and fish oil.
14 Foods You Should Eat
Dark Leafy Greens
If you’re looking for the most nutrient-dense food in existence then look no further than dark leafy greens. It doesn’t matter what you choose to eat; whether it’s Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, they will all help you live a healthier life and support a healthy mind and body.
Dark, leafy greens are known for fighting off all types of inflammation, which is great news considering that severe depression is linked to brain inflammation.
Leafy greens are also notable for containing a huge amount of minerals, phytochemicals, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Make sure to include tomatoes in your menus and add slices to all sandwiches and salads. The reason why tomatoes are so good for your mental health is that they contain alpha-lipoic and folic acids, both of which are known for fighting depression.
According to a research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience of McGill University, about a third of the people suffering from depression also suffer from folate deficiency.
Folic acid significantly decreases the negative effects of an amino acid known as homocysteine. Homocysteine is known for restricting the production of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
An apple a day may help keep the psychiatrist away. Since this fruit is high in antioxidants, it is able to prevent oxidation damage and inflammation. Not to mention that antioxidants are able to repair oxidation damage on a cellular level!
Instead of eating a bag of potato chips, why not choose a healthier snack? Eating processed snacks will only cause weight problems, unstable blood sugar levels, and other health issues and do not offer much in support of good nutrition.
That’s why you should consider consuming sunflower, pumpkin, or any other kind of seed you enjoy. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are noted for their ability to improve your mood.
You may have already heard about the fantastic health benefits you can experience by eating berries. They are noted for being extremely high in antioxidants, and are a great choice for a morning treat.
Berries are known for improving mental health. For example, they will improve your memory and ability to focus and may help improve mood.
Due to the presence of amino acids and antioxidants in green tea, it is known for being able to help you overcome depression in a completely natural way. There is a particular amino acid that helps improve your mental health and is found in both green and black tea. This amino acid is called theanine, and it is responsible for increasing dopamine (a chemical known for elevating your mood) levels in your brain and reducing stress.
The reason why you should eat walnuts if you want to avoid suffering from depression is that they’re simply one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
These omega-3 fatty acids are known for improving brain function and helping reduce the symptoms associated with depression. Keep in mind that the brain is mostly made up of fat, which is why this macronutrient plays such a big role in how you think and feel.
Avocado is one of those foods that you can easily incorporate into almost any meal you’re making and they make a great snack. One of the most popular choices is to put it in a salad.
By all means, you should start doing this as often as possible (consider even doing it daily). Avocadoes can do wonders for you physical and mental health. They are filled with monounsaturated fat (the good type of fat), which helps your brain work smoothly. Half an avocado a day is ideal, depending on your individual caloric needs and physical activity levels, as avocados are high in calories.
There are two very good reasons for why you should start consuming mushrooms more often. First, they serve as a probiotic, meaning that they promote healthy gut bacteria. Keep in mind that about 80-90% of our body’s serotonin (an extremely important neurotransmitter that regulates mood) is manufactured in our gut.
The second reason is that the chemical properties of mushrooms oppose insulin, thus lowering your blood sugar levels and elevating your mood.
Onions are much more powerful than people think. In fact, if you consume them regularly, they can easily keep you healthy. Not only are they associated with a reduced risk of cancer, but they also contain many anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Remember that there’s a huge difference between wild and farmed salmon. Even though farmed salmon is obviously the cheaper option, know that it contains dangerous levels of mercury, which can significantly increase the risk of cancer.
On the other hand, there are few fish that can compare to wild salmon when it comes to the health benefits that go along with eating it. Wild salmon is noted for its abundant omega-3 fatty acids content, which helps your brain work at an optimal level. Not only that, but also this fish will also reduce inflammation, improve your circulation, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Whole grains are truly are a great choice, considering that they are filled with healthy carbs that are high in fiber. Complex carbohydrates do a good job of improving your mood.
When you consume whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and/or sweet potatoes, your body will release more serotonin, thus lowering the risk of depression.
If you’re unsure which spice to use when making your next meal, consider turmeric. It is a spice that is mostly found in Asian and Indian curry dishes. Consuming it is a great way to elevate your mood. It is noted for its anti-inflammatory activity, as well as for the compounds called curcuminoids and turmerones, associated with numerous health benefits.
Dark chocolate is the perfect snack for fighting off depression. It helps you release serotonin, thus making you feel happier and it contains key anti-oxidants. However, remember that there are a lot of calories in dark chocolate, which is why you should eat it in moderation.
10 Foods You Should Avoid
There are many reasons why you should avoid consuming sugar. Apart from causing numerous problems regarding physical health, it can also have a negative effect on your mental health. Sugar can cause depression (or worsen your condition) due to the fact that it elevates blood glucose levels, which in turn decreases the presence of protein that helps with the growth of synapses and neurons. In other words, when you eat a lot of sugar, your brain won’t work at an optimal level.
If you figured that you would simply replace sugar with artificial sweeteners and avoid the higher risk of suffering from depression that way, then you might want to rethink that decision. There is a dangerous substance found in almost all products that contain artificial sweeteners known as aspartame. The reason why this substance is so dangerous is that it blocks the production of serotonin, a very important neurotransmitter. Due to the lack of serotonin in your body, you can experience mood swings, insomnia, headaches, and depression.
The main reason why fast food is so popular is that it offers people a cheap and easy meal. However, when you consider the harm fast food can do to your well-being, you’ll realize that the cost of it is much more than a few dollars.
Fast food includes French fries, burritos, pizza, hot dogs, commercial baked goods, anything fried, etc. It’s okay to grab something of this nature from time to time, but if you visit fast food chains on a daily basis, then your diet is likely way too high in sugar, unhealthy fats and lacks proper nutrition.
Eating fresh, whole foods definitely pays off. Everyone who wants to watch their weight or increase their quality of life should avoid processed foods at all costs. When you’re looking to buy ingredients for dinner, the foods you choose shouldn’t have any labels. This means that a healthy diet is filled with whole food; typically, this is food that consists of one ingredient, is un-processed and not made in a factory.
Any foods that do have a label, the ingredients list shouldn’t be filled with words that you don’t know. For example, have you ever heard of Bisphenol A? If you haven’t, then you need to start paying attention if the foods you’re buying contain this chemical.
It is found in almost all canned food liners, and is a chemical known for increasing the risk of cancer. Not only that, but it also alters genes in the stress portion of the brain, thus stopping the positive effects of important neurotransmitters.
You probably already know that even moderate consumption of caffeine is linked to depression. The reason why it can have a negative effect on your mental health is that caffeine disrupts sleep. Not only does it make it harder for you to fall asleep, but it prevents you from staying asleep as well. Getting enough sleep greatly contributes to your mood, which is why disturbed sleep can seriously interfered with good mental health.
You should avoid all foods that contain hydrogenated oil; and that means saying goodbye to fried cheese sticks, French fries, fried chicken, and fried calamari. Not only do they cause a number of health problems and significantly increase your weight, but they are also linked to depression. Since deep-frying is mostly done in hydrogenated oil, you should avoid all deep fried foods. Which are known to prevent blood flow to the brain.
Your central nervous system is extremely important, since it is responsible for controlling your motor skills, and taking in information through your senses. Apart from that, it is also responsible for thinking, reasoning, understanding, and controlling emotion. One of the best ways to protect your central nervous system is drink in moderation or not at all. Alcohol significantly slows down the central nervous system, which can lead to depression.
Foods High In Sodium
For a long time, many believed that fat-free foods were the way to go to lose weight. Thankfully, most now know that this simply isn’t true. We say thankfully because almost every fat-free product contains a huge amount of sodium.
Consuming excess sodium will completely mess with your emotions and disrupt certain parts of your neurological system. Not only will this increase the risk of depression, but it will also weaken your immune system and cause fatigue. On top of that, high sodium intake is linked to weight gain.
Trans fats is the term for unsaturated fats that aren’t usually found in whole foods. They started becoming really popular back in the 1950s, when big companies began incorporating them in packaged baked goods, margarine, and various snacks. Trans fats are the most unhealthy fats that increase risks for heart disease, which is a high risk factor for depression (according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 33% of people who have had a heart attack suffer from depression) and other health problems.
Refined carbs, including white starches, honey, syrup, sweets and various types of junk food have a really bad reputation, and for good reason considering that they are one of the leading causes of obesity. Since they’re noted for causing significant weight gain, many forget that they can also cause depression.
Consuming refined sugars may taste good and make you feel great for 20 minutes, but after that, it’s only a matter of time before your blood glucose levels plummet and you end up with a sugar hangover. A sudden rise and fall in blood glucose levels may cause mood swings and sleep disorders.
Depression is much different from temporary feelings of a bad mood or intermittent sadness. Depression is a serious mental health condition that involves feelings of sadness along with other symptoms that last for 2 weeks or more.
In general, depression will mean not feeling like yourself for a long period of time. It will result in difficulties with focus, nervousness, feeling annoyed, physical aches, isolation and other quality of life impacting symptoms.
There is no way to know how depression may affect you, as not all people experience it in the same manner. Unfortunately, this mental disorder is only becoming more widespread with each passing year, and we have yet to find a cure for it.
Doctors prescribe antidepressants for depression, which have helped many people to recover, but there are many things you can do to feel better and support your own treatment.
Nutrition has a much bigger effect on both your physical and mental health than you’re probably aware of. Just by paying attention to your eating habits, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of depression or even potentially recover from it completely. In order to stand a chance against depression, you’ll need to increase your intake of folate and other B-complex vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, and more.
Some of the best foods for battling depression include walnuts, tomatoes, apples, seeds, leafy greens, green tea, avocado, mushrooms, wild salmon, turmeric, and dark chocolate.
On the other hand, there are many foods that may make depression worse, and prevent your body from getting the nutrition it needs and so should be avoided at all costs. The most notable examples of these foods include sugar, caffeine, fast food, hydrogenated oil, artificial sweeteners, foods high in sodium, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and alcohol.
Eat well and take care!