Best Foods for Fighting Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental issues people face. It affects upwards of 1 in 10 adults in the United States every year. The most common treatments for depression include therapy and medication, but there are many studies emerging that look at the effect a healthy diet has on depression. What are the best foods for fighting depression, and how can you include them in a healthy diet?
Enjoy Thanksgiving Year-Round
Most of us love a good turkey dinner, but they generally only happen once or twice a year. We get it —it’s a pain in the butt to prep and cook a big bird, especially if you’re the only one who’s going to eat it. Lean protein has been shown to help fight depression when paired with a healthy diet.
Turkey has the added bonus of tryptophan. It’s the chemical that is normally blamed for the sleepy feeling you get after a big Thanksgiving dinner. While there might not be enough tryptophan to make you sleepy, there is enough to encourage serotonin production, which fights the symptoms of depression.
Cooking tip: If you’re on your own, pick up a small turkey breast instead of a whole bird. You don’t have to worry about stuffing or giblets, but you get enough turkey for a meal and some leftovers. And soup made from the bones is super-healthful.
Nuts are an important part of a healthy diet — they’re packed full of good fats and fiber, help lower your cholesterol and taste good. They’re also useful for helping fight symptoms of depression. Many nuts, such as walnuts, are full of omega-3 fatty acids. Also found in fatty fish, eggs and poultry, these amino acids have been shown to help improve symptoms of depression.
Cashews, on the other hand, are high in zinc. While this is an essential mineral for immune system support, recent studies have shown that zinc supplements have a dramatically positive effect on patients with major depressive disorder.
Cooking tip: While nuts generally don’t need much cooking, if you don’t feel like snacking on them straight, try slicing them up and adding them to salads, sandwiches or smoothies.
Eat More Chocolate
Chocolate is the perfect food for those bad days when you need something sweet to perk you up. Instead of reaching for a Snickers bar, try a couple squares of dark chocolate instead. Dark chocolate, when eaten in moderation, helps reduce stress hormones and increase the production of dopamine and serotonin. It’s also full of antioxidants like the ones you can find in red wine.
Cooking tip: Buy a pack of individually wrapped dark chocolate squares. The recommended serving size is 3 squares, or 1 oz of chocolate. Unwrapping each one individually makes it easier to stick to that serving size.
Avocados are a favorite of health enthusiasts because they’re full of good fats and can be used in recipes for nearly every meal. Those healthy fats, when paired with all the vitamins and fiber in an avocado, can reduce your risk for depression and help fight the symptoms.
Low-fat diets are associated with a higher risk of depression because your brain needs those good fats to function properly. Healthy fats, like the ones found in an avocado, are perfect.
Cooking Tip: Halve an avocado, remove the pit and crack an egg into it. Top with your favorite omelet fillings, and bake at 425 for about 15 minutes or until your egg is cooked to your desired consistency. It’s a quick, easy and tasty way to enjoy an avocado.
It’s Berry Good to Know
Berries are a great treat when that sweet tooth has you craving a candy bar. Cravings aren’t the only thing they can help fight – they could also fight depression. Berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries — just to name a few — are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which have been shown to reduce stress hormones and improve depression symptoms.
Cooking tip: Make all the smoothies! You can throw just about any type of berry into a smoothie and turn it into a tasty treat. Another idea? Freeze your berries and toss them in hot cereal or oatmeal.
Oatmeal — A Powerhouse
Oatmeal is a great breakfast food — high fiber carbohydrates take a while to digest so you feel fuller longer and have all the energy you need to face the day. These high-fiber foods release serotonin, and serotonin deficiencies have been directly linked to depression and similar conditions.
Cooking Tip: Overnight Oats! Don’t worry about cooking oatmeal in the morning when you’re already harried. Instead, set up your breakfast the night before with overnight oats. Mix your ingredients together — rolled oats, milk, berries or flavorings — put them in a container, and refrigerate overnight. By the time you wake up, you’ll have a super tasty breakfast waiting for you.
Don’t Let the Milk Spoil
Including low-fat dairy in your diet can help fight depression. These products are rich in vitamin D, calcium and protein, all of which have been shown to improve depression symptoms. You don’t need to drink a glass of milk every day to get the benefits — just start including more dairy in your diet.
Cooking tip: Use low-fat yogurt as a base for your smoothies, add milk to your oatmeal or snack on low-fat cheese and crackers.
Good Fats, Not Bad Fats
Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, are a super tasty way to get your omega-3 fatty acids and improve your mental health in one fell swoop. Those fatty acids are good for your mind and body. Studies show they reduce the risk of heart disease later in life.
Cooking tip: Learn how to cook fish. It sounds like a silly tip, but we’ve met so many people who hate fish because they don’t know how to cook it. Learn different ways to cook fish and it will become much easier to incorporate into your diet.
Getting to the Greens
Greens are good for so many things, and you have lots of choices for incorporating them in your diet. Kale, spinach, asparagus and collards are just a few options. Asparagus is high in folate, which has been linked to depression — a recent study found that low folate levels are often found in patients who have been diagnosed with mood disorders such as depression.
Cooking tip: Try some foreign food. The diets of some Asian cultures have been found to be rich in folate, due to the inclusion of vegetables like asparagus. Try some new recipes for Asian cuisine!
Treat Yourself to Steak
If you’re a fan of red meat, there’s nothing quite as good as a good cut of steak. Next time you opt for a rare cut of meat, switch to grass-fed beef instead. It’s got more antioxidants, more vitamins and minerals and two to four times the amount of omega3 fatty acids, which, as we’ve mentioned before, have a fantastically beneficial effect on depression symptoms.
Cooking tip: Let the meat rest! You might have the best cut of meat, cooked to perfection, but if you cut into it too quickly, you’re going to end up with a dried-out hunk of steak. Let it rest for 5-15 minutes before you cut into it.
When a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Are Not Enough
While a healthy diet can help to fight depression, if you suffer from a severe case of depression, or any other mental health condition, you should seek help from a professional. At Brookhaven Retreat, we can help you learn to cope with depression, and become a happier and healthier you.
Contact us today to start your journey towards healing.