There is a popular saying— ‘You are what you eat’. While this expression is often used in reference to physical health and fitness, it is applicable to mental health too, particularly depression.
Depression affects a whopping 264 million people worldwide. While depression is a complex disease that often requires multifaceted, custom-tailored and professional treatment, there is one thing you can do straight from the comfort of your home to alleviate your symptoms of depression— adjust your diet.
It’s no surprise that diet is linked to mood, this is the reason why people attempt to purge their sorrows with chocolate and pizza. However, when used appropriately, food can be a powerful tool to ameliorate your mood and boost your energy levels. And while you cannot literally eat your way out of depression, maintaining a proper diet can help ease some of the symptoms of depression.
The Healing Power of Protein
Many foods are well-known for helping to optimize the release of serotonin and dopamine, natural mood-lifting neurotransmitter that is closely linked with depression. But one food group takes the cake— that is protein. The brain relies on several essential amino acids that can only be found in protein rich foods to synthesize serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters..
Among proteins, turkey, wild-caught oily fish such as Tuna, Salmon and Herring, lean-beef, nuts, soy-products, beans, seeds, cheese and milk are not only delicious, they are known to be highly-effective at enhancing serotonin functioning.
Poultry, Nuts and Cheese
Poultry and cheese contain substantial amounts of essential amino-acid tryptophan, a key component of serotonin production. Tryptophan has also been linked to melatonin function and sleep improvement making it a useful tool to improve depression induced insomnia. Tryptophan is not made by your body naturally, your body must uptake it through diet.
Oil Rich Fish
Wild-caught fatty fish contain high-levels of omega-3 fatty acid, a supplement that has been linked to serotonin functioning. According to Harvard Health Publishing, depression occurs less frequently in countries where more oily fish is consumed. When used in combination with prescription anti-depressant medication, an Omega-3 dose of 1-2 grams per day (three to six servings of salmon per week) may be beneficial in helping to alleviate symptoms of depression.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large US population-based study conducted by the CDC found that depression scores were 26% lower in people who consumed nuts daily— especially omega-3 rich nuts like walnuts— than in people who didn’t consume nuts daily. On top of that, nuts are powerful antioxidants and natural inflammation alleviators, known to decrease stress and anxiety. They also contain substantial amounts of Tryptophan.
Milk is an excellent natural source of Vitamin-D. Although the exact relationship between Vitamin-D and mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin is unknown, there are several studies including a 2020 study that was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, that show dietary supplementation with high doses of Vitamin-D can improve depression severity, especially for seasonal depression.
Beans and Seeds
Several varieties of beans and seeds such as soybeans, sesame seeds and flaxseed not only contain Tryptophan, they are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Additionally, white beans are rich in essential amino-acid Tyrosine, a key component for dopamine synthesis.
Adjusting your diet alone will not cure your depression. But it is an effective way to improve your overall physical health, enhance your mood and reclaim control over your mental well-being.