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Depression is a mental health disorder that is characterized by persistent spells of low mood, sadness, and disinterest that negatively impacts your personal, professional, and social life. This poor quality of life can even reduce your lifespan by causing premature mortality. (1)
Depression stems from a combination of factors that can be biological, social, or psychological in nature and can cause mental distress in different ways. (2)
Some of these factors such as your lifestyle choices are controllable, whereas others such as genetics are beyond your control. The controllable factors can be managed to improve overall mental health and reduce the risk of depression, and a lot of research is being conducted on this topic in recent times. (3)
There is no cure for depression, but it can be managed through medication and mental health counseling combined with the recommended lifestyle changes. Your diet can also play a role in fighting depression and improving your overall mental well-being.
Prevalence of Depression
According to the World Health Organization, depression is the top contributor to the disease burden of high-income nations. At the global level, more than 340 million people are diagnosed with this condition. (4)
10 Foods to Fight Depression
Here is a list of foods that have shown to positively impact brain health and mood and, therefore, may prove helpful in managing depression.
1. Green tea
Frequent green tea intake may benefit those with depression if consuming more than 3 cups a day. This may be possibly due to its high content of polyphenols, which is a micronutrient that can lower stress levels in the body, and/or due to theanine, an amino acid that can help protect the brain and make it function properly. (5)
Green tea may also help fight depression due to other factors such as being in a social environment, having a healthier lifestyle, or reducing stress while preparing and consuming the tea. The research is still unclear what aspect of drinking green tea fights depression.
Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with depression symptoms by increasing positive mood.
Correlation studies have seen a decrease in mental disorders when there is an increase in fish consumption. (6) This may be due to the high content of DHA in salmon or another factor.
Research is still looking into the best way to help increase a positive mood with DHA or supplementation.
3. Dark chocolate
Many people like eating dark chocolate, and the good news is it has been shown to potentially reduce stress levels, just not elevate the mood. (7) So, enjoy eating dark chocolate to reduce stress – just don’t expect it to fight depression.
Can an egg a day keep depression away? That is debatable according to research.
One study showed that eggs helped to fight depression possibly due to the B vitamin content of eggs, while another showed that eggs had no effect on depression possibly due to their cholesterol content. (8)
It is unlikely that one food item could aid against depression. However, it is possible that eggs along with other dietary choices such as consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help relieve depression. (9)
Bananas are high in fiber and potassium, and research has shown that people who eat bananas feel better. (10) This correlates with another study that showed individuals perceived a decrease in depression symptoms after eating a banana.
Whether or not bananas can alleviate depression symptoms, it seems clear that people feel better or even happier after eating bananas. (11)
Avocados have the potential to fight against depression due to their magnesium content. (12)
Blueberries are full of antioxidants and can elevate the mood. (13) It’s unclear if this small superfood can help fight depression, but an elevated mood is much better than a negative one.
Spinach is a leafy green that should be eaten by the majority of the population. It is high in iron and calcium, (14) and it has the potential to boost your energy levels by preventing iron deficiency.
At this point, the research is unclear if spinach can fight depression, but again it can improve mood.
Asparagus is another vegetable that when eaten can improve and elevate your mood. (15) This effect is likely due to its high folate and tryptophan content. Tryptophan gets converted to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is known to elevate mood. (16)
Again, there needs to be more research to determine if asparagus can fight against depression. However, given its high content of folate, tryptophan, and fiber, asparagus is a good vegetable to eat regularly.
Who are more prone to depression?
Studies have researched what types of students are more prone to depression.
They have discovered that students who tend to feel that their financial status is average or worse than others feel disconnected due to a lack of parental guidance. Moreover, those who come from hard living conditions, if living in rural areas, are more prone to depression. (17)
What can be the symptoms of depression?
It is important to watch out for the symptoms of depression, which include but are not limited to feeling sad, feeling worthless, feeling guilty, and not being able to work or think productively. (18)
What nutrient deficiency can cause depression?
While research is still looking into this area, it has been discovered that those who report being depressed tend to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies in folate, B12, zinc, and selenium.
Deficiencies are also seen in omega-3 fatty acids, L-tyrosine, and neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA. (19)
What other lifestyle changes should be made to fight depression?
Adopting a Mediterranean diet, which consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, promotes anti-inflammatory effects in the body. This is important as a pro-inflammatory diet high in refined carbs, sugar, and saturated fat can lead to more depressive symptoms.
Exercise should also be included in the fight against depression. Research has shown only a modest effect of exercise on elevating a person’s depressive symptoms. However, exercise can also increase heart rate and increase blood flow throughout the body. (20)
The foods you eat affect your brain health, so you have to be mindful of your dietary choices. Eating right can help reduce the risk and severity of depressive episodes, but it is only a small part of the treatment approach.
Depression is multifactorial and should be treated as such, which means that you should examine your eating habits, physical activity, stress levels, social life, professional life, and need for professional help including medication if needed. (21)
Be aware of the barriers to change as depression can make people less motivated to change lifestyle habits or seek professional help.