Most people go through periods of feeling sad or withdrawal at some point or the other, which is quite natural, but if you feel sad continuously for weeks or months or for years then it could be a sign of depression.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
According to NIMH, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2015. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.
Depression is not a sign of weakness rather it is a serious medical condition having real symptoms. But the good news is that it is fully curable.
Along with the therapy and the medications, there's a lot that can be done.
Some changes in your lifestyle, physical activity and thinking can slowly make you feel better.
Changes in your diet by including some mood enhancing foods that are known to fight depression can be very helpful.
Now the question arises that how does food help in fighting depression?
Well, some foods are known to contain antioxidants and nutrients that give the brain a lot of energy to create neurotransmitters.
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter which is produced in the brain and the intestines is responsible to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood and is majorly affected by our diet.
It is made from the essential amino acid ‘tryptophan’. This amino acid is commonly found in nuts, red meat, and cheese etc.
So a deficiency of this amino acid leads to lower levels of serotonin, which in turn can lead to mood disorders leading to depression in some cases.
According to a study from researchers at Duke University in Durham, NC (published in February 2015) mice who were deficient in serotonin were more vulnerable to stress than a group of healthy control mice.
Interestingly, there are many foods like walnuts, pineapple, kiwis, tomatoes etc that contain serotonin, but the serotonin present in these foods does not enter the brain.
The brain is supposed to produce its own serotonin with the help of tryptophan.
So it gets important to add foods to our diet that are rich in tryptophan in order to fight depression.
A quick way to raise serotonin is by having sugary food.
This is the reason why people crave for sugary and fatty foods when they feel stressed.
However, sugar also triggers a stress promoting chemical called cortisol, so binging on sweets is not a good idea.
According to the experts serotonin level can be raised if carbohydrates and proteins are consumed separately.
Here are some foods- also known as mood enhancing foods, that are known to help fight depression:
1. Turmeric: Turmeric is also termed as miracle spice as it is known to possess a number of healing properties.
Turmeric is known to be anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antifungal, antibacterial, antidepressant, pain reliever, anti-diabetic etc.
The medicinal properties of turmeric are primarily due to the curcuminoid content in it.
Mainly, three types of curcuminoids are there: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
Curcumin is known to regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin and thus helps to fight depression.
It is also a rich source of antioxidants and is known to fight inflammation and free radicals.
2. Fruits and vegetables: Almost all the fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants.
People who have a diet rich in vegetables and fruits instead of fried food, sugary food and refined grains etc have lower rates of depression.
For instance, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant which helps to fight depression.
Carotenoids occur naturally in bright red, yellow, and orange pigments in fruits and vegetables.
Leafy green vegetables contain folate. It is a fact that low level of folate can result in depression along with many other problems. Folate is known to affect neurotransmitters that impact mood.
Other folate-rich vegetables are- asparagus, Brussels sprouts, beans, peas etc. All citrus fruits are also rich in folate.
Berries have the highest level of antioxidants that fight free radicals.
The high content of vitamin C is helpful in combating stress.
It's best to have a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Also adding fresh fruits to your favourite recipes helps maintain balance in nutrients and taste.
For instance, if you crave to have rainbow waffles for your breakfast then try making it with whole wheat flour and have it with loads of fruits that help in producing serotonin, and a glass of milk.
3. Fatty fish: Fatty fishes, like Salmon, Tuna, Sardines are rich in omega 3s, a nutrient that our bodies don't produce naturally and are hard to find in vegetarian diets.
Omega 3s helps in the production of mood-enhancing chemicals like Serotonin. As stated above the low level of serotonin can be linked to anxiety and depression. Thus having fatty fish can help combat depression.
People on vegetarian diets should consult their doctors if they require omega-3 supplements.
4. Dark chocolate: Most of us tend to love chocolates, now there is all the more reason, backed by science, to snack on it in moderation if you are feeling low.
Dark chocolate has some remarkable health benefits. It is a rich source of two important antioxidants- polyphenols and flavonols.
These two antioxidants are known to reduce the stress hormone- cortisol.
These antioxidants also help to lower the blood pressure making us feel calm.
Some studies also confirm that dark chocolate helps to release serotonin.
So, dark chocolate is an amazing food to fight depression, just remember that it is high in calorie too and can add to extra pounds in a few weeks.
Experts recommend not more than 1.4 ounces per day.
5. Cheese: All kinds of Cheese, namely cheddar, parmesan, swiss, fontina, gouda, and mozzarella contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is known to enhance brain functions and serotonin production.
Having foods rich in tryptophan helps in raising the serotonin levels and in turn helps in boosting the mood.
6. Tea (Black,Green,oolong) : According to a study published in Pubmed Health, tea is associated with a lower risk of depression.
Tea is incredibly rich in antioxidants and contains an amino acid known as L theanine.
According to the studies, it is shown to stimulate the production of brain waves called alpha waves, the waves seen when a person is in a relaxed state.
It also helps to increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine- neurotransmitters in the brain that can affect the mood.
Experts recommend having 3-4 cups of green,black or oolong tea to de stress and enhance your mood.
7. Red wine: It is a well known fact that having red wine in moderation is supposed to be good for our health but now, a study published in the journal BMC Medicine suggests that it may also reduce the risk of depression.
Red wine contains antioxidants called polyphenols which are known to have a positive effect on the heart.
It also contains resveratrol- a substance which lowers the risk of inflammation and damage to blood vessels.
Healthy heart lowers the risk of depression.
However, this does not mean if you are a non drinker you should start drinking, but it means that if you drink you can enjoy an occasional glass or two of red wine with your food to fight depression.
8. Whole grains: Healthy, high fiber carbohydrates are found in whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread etc.
Complex Carbohydrates are very important, they give us energy and boosts our mood.
Researchers confirm that carbohydrates promote the production of serotonin.
According to Debbie Mandel, a stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress: “Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta are all good choices. They help the body release serotonin.”
9. Nuts and seeds: All the nuts and seeds contain tryptophan.
Other than that, they are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Deficiency of magnesium is correlated with depression and there's a good reason to have cashews as they are one of the richest sources of magnesium.
Walnuts along with magnesium are also rich in essential omega fats and contain polyphenols and antioxidants, which are known to improve and maintain the health of the brain.
Brazil nuts are full of selenium, which as studies suggest, can have mood-enhancing effects.
This mineral also helps the body maintain a healthy antioxidant balance for overall health and well-being.
Seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds are also very beneficial.
Chia seeds are supposed to be one of the healthiest seeds available. They are loaded with antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids.
It is also a rich source of magnesium along with many other healthy nutrients.
Antioxidants, omega 3 and magnesium play an important role in the overall health of the brain. Having a handful of various nuts and seeds every day can help fight depression.
Depressions affect men, women, and children in different ways.
Don't be shy or afraid of it, just know that you are not alone.
The first step towards getting better is to know that it is fully curable no matter how bad it is.
If you think you may have depression start by making an appointment with your doctor and simultaneously making the above-mentioned changes in your lifestyle.
About the author
Carmen can be found writing, designing and developing all sorts of great content. She is an avid reader and is currently associated with truecorset.co.uk
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