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Depression is one of the most prevalent mood disorders, and it is projected by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be the leading cause of disease burden by 2030.
Depression can manifest through the following symptoms: (1)
- Persistently low mood
- Decreased interest in activities that were normally pleasurable
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Lack of energy
- Poor concentration
- Changes in appetite
- Agitation or restlessness
- Sleep disturbance and thoughts of death
The main mode of treatment for depression is therapy and antidepressants, but nutrition also plays a role in the management of depressive disorders. Foods such as fruits and vegetables, fish, and nuts rich in magnesium, folic acid, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids have been identified for their benefits in managing depression. (2)
Among nuts, cashew nuts have been specifically identified for their ability to treat and manage depression. Abundant in nutrients that can control mood swings, a few cashews in a day can help manage depressive disorders well.
Nutrients in Cashews and Their Relationship With Depression
Here are the nutrients found in cashews that can help combat depression.
Cashews are a rich source of magnesium, an essential nutrient that maintains many body functions. One serving of cashews is about 28 g or 18 nuts and contributes 72 mg of magnesium. (3)
According to animal studies, magnesium-rich foods can produce an antidepressant-like effect in the brain by increasing serotonin levels. (4)
Including even one serving of cashews a day in the diet can contribute enough magnesium to prevent depression and its associated symptoms.
2. Vitamin B6 and folate
Vitamin B6 is also associated with improving depressive symptoms. One serving of cashews (18 nuts) gives 0.07 mg of vitamin B6 and 19 mcg of folate. (5)
A 2020 study revealed that people suffering from anxiety and depression have significantly lower levels of vitamin B6. This trend was not observed in women. (6)
In a study that included healthy women aged 18–25 years taking oral contraceptives, supplementing with 100 mg of vitamin B6 every day significantly improved their depressive symptoms. (7)
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is responsible for producing serotonin. Essential amino acids are not produced in the body and are needed to be obtained through dietary sources.
4. Anacardic acid
Anacardic acid is a polyphenolic compound obtained from cashews and has been found to have antidepressant effects.
It has strong antioxidant properties, which experts have linked to reduced symptoms of depression associated with high levels of oxidative stress. (10)
In addition to cashews, here are some other foods rich in the nutrients discussed above that you can include in your diet to improve the outcome of depression:
- Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have been linked to a lower depressive score in adults. (11)
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate at 60% or higher is an abundant source of magnesium, and its consumption has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms. However, more research is needed on this topic. (12)
While including nutritious foods are important, it is also crucial to avoid the consumption of sugar-rich foods and drinks as they are known to increase the occurrence of depression. (13)
Precautions to Consider
Cashews are nutrient-rich nuts, but they are also high in saturated fats. Do not consume more than 1 serving each day to avoid the consequences of a high-fat diet such as weight gain and increased cholesterol levels.
Most-Asked Questions About Cashews
Is it true that a handful of cashews act like a single dose of Prozac?
This is a false claim, and eating cashews cannot be an alternative remedy to medication. If you or someone you know is suffering from severe depression, medication may be a necessary intervention.
Who should avoid cashews?
People with known allergies should avoid consuming cashews. Also, if you have high cholesterol levels, avoid consuming them in excess.
Can I take magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements?
Yes, you can. Consult your doctor to identify a suitable dose for you.
Nutrients play a significant role in managing depression, mainly by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. Cashews, in particular, have been identified as a potent food to ease the symptoms of depression.
Rich in magnesium, vitamins B6, folate, tryptophan, and anacardic acid, one serving of cashews can be beneficial for people suffering from depression.