Food that fights depression

Dark Chocolate for Depression


Dark chocolate lowers the risk of depression, according to a cross‐sectional survey of over 13,000 US adults.1 The study compared self-reported chocolate consumption with self-reported depressive symptoms, as measured by the PHQ-9. People who ate dark chocolate in the past 24 hours were 70% less likely to report depression.

The same effects were not seen with milk chocolate, suggesting that the benefits were not simply due to the pleasures of the food. Indeed, most people rate milk chocolate as the more pleasurable of the two. There is also the possibility that people who strive for a healthy lifestyle are more likely to consume dark chocolate. This treat, after all, has well-publicized health benefits, including prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline.2 To disentangle those confounding variables, the researchers controlled for other lifestyle factors like physical activity, smoking, alcohol, and total sugar and caloric intake, as well as age, sex, marital status, education, income, weight, and presence of chronic medical problems. In the end, the association remained. Once more, those who ate the largest quantities of chocolate had the lowest rates of depression.

It did not take much dark chocolate to achieve these antidepressant effects. On average, the consumers of dark chocolate ate only 12 grams a day, a little less than half an ounce. The cut-off for “dark” chocolate was ≥ 45% cocoa. In contrast, the optimal dose for physical health is 1 to 2 ounces a day of ≥ 70% cocoa. Keeping the percentage high and the ounces low maximizes the healthy ingredients while minimizing the calories and sugar.

Chocolate has long been associated with depression. Almost half (45%) of patients in a depressed episodes report craving for chocolate, and many believe that it relieves feelings of anxiety and irritability.3 Chocolate cravings are particularly high during atypical depression, winter depression, and premenstrual dysphoria. Two previous epidemiologic surveys arrived at the opposite conclusion of the current one, finding that chocolate consumption was associated not with mental health but with depressive symptoms. However, those studies did not look specifically at dark chocolate, and they did not control for confounding variables as well as this new study did.1

There are several mechanisms that may explain the putative antidepressant effects of dark chocolate.1,4

1. Flavanols. These brain-protecting nutrients are particularly prominent in dark chocolate. They are also found in red wine, berries, apples, citrus, and green and black teas, all foods that are associated with improvements in mood and cognition.

2. Caffeine and theobromine. These adenosine-agonists have rapid effects on energy and cognition. Cocoa is the main source of theobromine, while caffeine is found in many foods.

3. N-acylethanolamines. This fatty acid is an analogue of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid with anxiolytic and euphoric effects.

4. Phenylethylamine. A natural monoamine that increases the release of norepinephrine, dopamine, and acetylcholine.

Studies in healthy volunteers attest to the mood-enhancing effects of chocolate, which relieved negative moods more effectively than spring water and other active controls.4

Though intriguing, these results are not definitive enough to foster sweeping recommendations of dark chocolate for depression. Dark chocolate is not without risks. It has been known to cause migraines, insomnia, kidney stones, and dental problems.

What this study does do is relieve some of the guilt that accompanies the consumption of chocolate, particularly during depression. Even in the studies of healthy subjects, where chocolate enhanced mood, guilt was sometimes noted as an adverse effect.4 Chocolate is one of life’s pleasures, and pleasant feelings help pave the way out of depression. They give rise to altruism, creative problem solving, and social engagement.5

Clinicians, take note

Patients with depression are not the only ones who can benefit from those mental shifts. The cognitive benefits of chocolate apply to doctors as well.

In the 1990s a series of studies tested whether the positive mental state induced by chocolate could improve medical problem-solving skills.5 The researchers asked a group of doctors to make a diagnosis after reading through a folder of clinical data. Half of the doctors were given a small bag of Hershey’s Miniature Chocolates along with the reports and told not to eat them until the diagnostic work was completed. Just the idea of chocolate made a difference; the doctors who received it made more accurate diagnoses.

Dr Aiken is Instructor in Clinical Psychiatry at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Director of the Mood Treatment Center in Winston-Salem, NC. He is Editor in Chief of The Carlat Psychiatry Report and Bipolar Disorder Section Co-Editor for Psychiatric Times.

People who eat dark chocolate less likely to be depressed

The study, published in Depression and Anxiety, is the first to examine the association with depression according to the type of chocolate consumed.

Researchers from UCL worked in collaboration with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada and assessed data from 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants’ chocolate consumption was assessed against their scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire, which assesses depressive symptoms.

In the cross-sectional study, a range of other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems were also taken into account to ensure the study only measured chocolate’s effect on depressive symptoms.

After adjusting for these factors, it was found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 per cent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all. The 25 per cent of chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate (of any kind, not just dark) were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn’t eat chocolate at all. However researchers found no significant link between any non‐dark chocolate consumption and clinically relevant depressive symptoms.

Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, and is the leading global cause of disability.


Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms.

“However further research is required to clarify the direction of causation — it could be the case that depression causes people to lose their interest in eating chocolate, or there could be other factors that make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed.

“Should a causal relationship demonstrating a protective effect of chocolate consumption on depressive symptoms be established, the biological mechanism needs to be understood to determine the type and amount of chocolate consumption for optimal depression prevention and management.”

Chocolate is widely reported to have mood‐enhancing properties and several mechanisms for a relationship between chocolate and mood have been proposed.

Principally, chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoid, found in cannabis. It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator which is believed to be important for regulating people’s moods.

Experimental evidence also suggests that mood improvements only take place if the chocolate is palatable and pleasant to eat, which suggests that the experience of enjoying chocolate is an important factor, not just the ingredients present.

While the above is true of all types of chocolate, dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles, which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression.

Depression and Dark Chocolate

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Great news: A recent cross-sectional study of over 13,000 U.S. adults found that people who ate dark chocolate in the prior 24 hours were 70 percent less likely to report depression.1

The benefits were not simply due to the pleasure of the taste because; the same effects were not seen with milk chocolate, although many people prefer that taste to dark chocolate. You may ask, isn’t it possible that people who strive for a healthy lifestyle are more likely to consume dark chocolate? After all, most of us know that dark chocolate has been linked to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, and a host of other maladies. But unlike other studies, these researchers controlled for other lifestyle factors like physical activity, smoking, alcohol, and total sugar and caloric intake, as well as age, sex, marital status, education, income, weight, and presence of chronic medical problems. In the end, the association held up.

Even better, if you are careful, there is little threat to your waist line because it did not take much dark chocolate to achieve these antidepressant effects. On average, the consumers of dark chocolate ate a little less than half an ounce per day. And the quality of the dark chocolate did not seem to matter: You don’t have to buy the expensive brands that promise high percentages of cocoa. Trader Joe’s will have the same effect as Godiva. The cut-off for “dark” chocolate was ≥ 45% cocoa which is much lower than the optimal dose for physical health, which is 1 to 2 ounces a day of ≥ 70% cocoa. Keeping the percentage of cocoa high and the serving size low maximizes the healthy ingredients while minimizing the calories and sugar.

What are the mechanisms that may explain the antidepressant effects of dark chocolate?

  1. Flavanols. Brain-protecting nutrients that are also found in red wine, berries, apples, citrus, and green and black teas, all foods associated with improvements in mood and cognition.
  2. Caffeine and theobromine. These deliver rapid effects on energy and cognition. Cocoa is the main source of theobromine, while caffeine is found in many foods other than coffee.
  3. N-acylethanolamines. This fatty acid has euphoric effects and shows promise in treating bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
  4. Phenylethylamine. It increases the release of dopamine which tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. Dopamine also helps with reinforcement — motivating an animal to do something again

This study relieves some of the guilt that accompanies the consumption of chocolate, particularly during depression. Even in the studies of healthy subjects, where chocolate enhanced mood, guilt was sometimes noted as an adverse effect. Chocolate is one of life’s pleasures, and pleasant feelings help pave the way out of depression.

8 Foods That Help Fight Depression, According to a Nutritionist

Sure, a bowl of ice cream may provide a little comfort after a long workday, but are there any foods that may benefit the brain (and mood) long-term? The relationship between food and long-term mental health has largely been a foreign concept. However, growing research suggests that certain foods and nutrients play a much bigger role than we ever thought, particularly when it comes to depression.

The connection between food and depression is not fully understood, but there is enough research to suggest that focusing on certain ones may lessen one’s likelihood of developing depression or potentially aid in treating existing depression. Here are eight nutrient-rich foods that can help fight depression.

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Eating oysters to treat depression may sound odd, but a psychiatry professor at Columbia University recently made headlines by revealing he encourages patients with depression to regularly consume oysters. So exactly what’s in them that could potentially impact mood? Turns out that oysters, as well as other mollusks and shellfish, are a great source of zinc, which plays a key role in daily brain functioning—specifically in regards to mental clarity, behavior, and attention.

Research has also noted that those with depression tend to have lower levels of zinc. While it’s unclear if a lack of zinc leads to depression, or if low zinc levels are a side effect of depression, almost everyone can benefit by incorporating more zinc-rich foods. Oysters and other shellfish are good choices, since they also provide vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium—three other nutrients also associated with brain health.

View Recipe: Roasted Oysters With Pancetta and Breadcrumbs

Wild Blueberries

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All berries are great food choices, but blueberries rise to the top thanks to their high levels of Vitamin C and polyphenols. These compounds act as antioxidants protecting brain cells from harmful free radicals and promoting proper brain functioning particularly during stressful periods. For an even bigger boost to brain health, opt for blueberries labeled “wild,” which are a specific type harvested in the Northeast that have appear to have higher concentrations of the antioxidant-like compounds.

In fact, when given a drink made with wild blueberries, both kids and adults were reported to have a significant increase in overall mood and outlook two hours later. Most wild blueberries are frozen immediately after harvest to preserve nutrients, so look for them near other frozen berries and fruit. Then use just as you would other frozen fruits for smoothies, or thaw and stir into batter for muffins.

View Recipe: Milk Chocolate Yogurt With Granola and Blueberries

Fermented Foods

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Research continues to suggest that gut bacteria plays a role in the development of a variety of mental health issues (including depression). While we don’t fully understand this connection, we do know that food can directly influence just how healthy and diverse those gut microbes are.

Most agree that adding food rich in good bacteria—such as fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso, tamari, tempeh, and sauerkraut, as well as fermented dairy products like yogurt—to your diet is beneficial to your overall health. In fact, a meta-analysis of almost 100 studies found that depression risk was reduced significantly by regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods.

View Recipe: Savory Broccoli-and-Sauerkraut Salad


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Salmon offers a two-pronged approach when it comes to fighting depression because it not only provides omega-3s that are essential to brain health, but it is also a source of Vitamin D. While the majority of the population may not be deficient in Vitamin D, data suggests that most aren’t consuming adequate amounts, which is noteworthy since lower blood levels of Vitamin D are associated with a greater risk of depression.

View Recipe: Salmon Croquettes With Yogurt-Dill Sauce

RELATED: 100 Ways to Cook With Salmon

In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fatty fish are DHA and EPA, both of which are directly linked to brain health. Primary sources of DHA and EPA are fish and sea plants like algae. Eggs and poultry also have small amounts, but other commonly recognized omega-3 foods, like nuts and seeds, don’t contain EPA and DHA. This means getting adequate amounts can easily get neglected without regular fish intake, so aim to eat a 4- to 6-ounce serving of fatty fish like salmon two to three times per week to load up on those brain-essential omega-3s and vitamin D.

Leafy Greens

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Leafy greens rank as a top food when it comes to fighting depression, based on their high nutrient content. This is according to a recent study which examined the amounts twelve nutrients, all specifically associated with mental health, in various foods. The top plant foods with the highest amounts of these nutrients were leafy greens, followed by peppers and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, while the top animal foods were oysters and mussels.

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards, cabbage and watercress are high in Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folate. Many feel getting adequate folate in daily is key since a deficiency in folate is associated with a greater risk of depression. For optimal brain health, most recommendations suggest eating a serving of leafy greens daily (or around 5 to 7 cups per week).

View Recipe: Gnocchi With Spinach and Pepper Sauce


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Walnuts are already a top nut for heart health, thanks to their powerful combo of omega-3s, vitamin E, and antioxidants, but they may also reduce your risk for depression. A study published earlier this year that analyzed data from over 26,000 U.S. adults found that those who regularly ate walnuts had a significantly reduced risk for depression. In fact, the study found that depression scores were 26% lower for individuals who ate approximately 1 ounce of walnuts each day and 8% lower in those who ate 1 ounce of another type of nut each day, when compared to others who didn’t regularly consume nuts.

View Recipe: Fig and Arugula Salad With Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Lean Proteins

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Eating adequate protein isn’t just about maintaining muscles—not getting enough could potentially impact mental health. Research that suggests that low levels of B12, a vitamin predominantly found in animal protein sources, may put an individual at higher risk for suffering from depression.

The trick is to aim to get adequate protein each day from a variety of both animal and plant-based sources and to make sure the animal proteins you choose are from lean sources like fish, poultry, eggs, and lower-fat dairy. Getting adequate B12 can be a little trickier for vegetarians who eat few to no animal proteins. Fortified grain products are an alternative, but the vitamin may not be absorbed as well.

Another mood-boosting perk from lean protein foods like tuna, turkey, and beans is that they also contain the amino acid tryptophan. While often associated with sleepiness after eating Thanksgiving turkey, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a key mood-boosting brain chemical.

View Recipe: Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups


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Eating a high-fiber diet promotes a healthy digestive tract, but it may also make you less prone to depression. Research suggests that depression develops as a result of inflammation in the brain that triggers altered neurotransmitters and impaired brain functioning. But how does fiber come into play? Some strains of good bacteria use soluble fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in the gut which have an anti-inflammatory effect.

All beans ranging from black beans to chickpeas are good soluble fiber sources. Other good sources include peas, lentils, fruits, and vegetables, so make sure to eat these foods every day for an added fiber boost.

The Bottom Line

While no food will magically cure depression, eating a healthier diet full of these foods may help improve physical and mental function. If you believe you have depression, or you’re struggling with your mental health, visit your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s right for you.

10 Foods I Eat Every Day to Beat Depression

Among all the strategies to safeguard my mental health, eating the right foods ties for first (with getting adequate sleep) as the most important. Recently I did some substantial research on which foods promote sanity and which ones send an alarm to your limbic system (emotion center) and cause inflammation. I decided to eliminate gluten, dairy, caffeine, and sugar from my diet. I also started eating fresh produce throughout my day and made the commitment to hit the grocery store a few times a week.

As a result, I feel more emotionally resilient and less vulnerable to the impact of stress and drama on my mood.

Here are some of the foods I eat every day to feel good. They provide the nutrients my body needs to fight off inflammation in my brain, which leads to depression.

1. Dark Leafy Greens: A Nutrient-Dense Inflammation Fighter

If you were to choose the healthiest food of all, the most nutrient-dense item available to us to eat, it would be dark, leafy greens, no contest. Spinach. Kale. Swiss chard. Greens are the first of the G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, seeds) that Joel Fuhrman, MD, describes in his book The End of Dieting — the foods with the most powerful immune-boosting and anticancer effects.

“These foods help prevent the cancerous transformation of normal cells and keep the body armed and ready to attack any precancerous or cancerous cells that may arise,” he writes. Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation, and according to a study published in March 2015 in JAMA Psychiatry, severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. Leafy greens are especially important because they contain oodles of vitamins A, C, E, and K, minerals, and phytochemicals.

RELATED: Total Brain: Learn to Measure — and Improve — Your Mental Health and Fitness

2. Walnuts: Rich in Mood-Boosting Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Walnuts are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and numerous studies have demonstrated how omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and reduce depression symptoms. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry is especially interesting. The lead authors ask the question, Why is the vast part biological research — from genetics to psychopharmacology — concentrated on neurotransmitters, when the mammalian brain is approximately 80 percent fat (lipids), and there is a growing body of research demonstrating the critical role of lipids in brain functioning? What’s more, the shift in the Western diet away from these necessary omega-3 fatty acids over the last century parallels the large rise in psychiatric disorders in that time.

3. Avocado: Its Oleic Acid Gives You Brainpower

I eat a whole one every day in my salad for lunch. Avocados are power foods because, again, they contain healthy fat that your brain needs in order to run smoothly. Three-fourths of the calories of an avocado are from fat, mostly monounsaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. An average avocado also contains 4 grams of protein, higher than other fruits, and is filled with vitamin K, different kinds of vitamin B (B9, B6, and B5), vitamin C, and vitamin E12. Finally, they are low in sugar and high in dietary fiber, containing about 11 grams each.

4. Berries: Full of Cell-Repairing Antioxidants

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available to us. I try to have a variety for breakfast in the morning. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients were treated for two years with antioxidants or placebos. After two years those who were treated with antioxidants had a significantly lower depression score. Antioxidants are like DNA repairmen. They go around fixing your cells and preventing them from getting cancer and other illnesses.

5. Mushrooms: Helpful Tools to Lower Blood Sugar

Here are two good reasons why mushrooms are good for your mental health. First, their chemical properties oppose insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels, evening out your mood. They also are like a probiotic in that they promote healthy gut bacteria. And since the nerve cells in our gut manufacture 80 to 90 percent of our body’s serotonin — the critical neurotransmitter that keeps us sane — we can’t afford to not pay attention to our intestinal health.

6. Onions: Layered With Cancer-Fighting Allium

You won’t find this item on most lists of mood foods. However, it’s included in Dr. Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS because onions and all allium vegetables (garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, and spring onions) have been associated with a decreased risk of several cancers.

“Eating onions and garlic frequently is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the digestive tract,” explains Fuhrman. “These vegetables also contain high concentrations of anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants that contribute to their anticancer properties.” Again, if you consider the relationship between your digestive tract and your brain, it is understandable why a food that can prevent cancers of the gut would also benefit your mood.

7. Tomatoes: Packed With Depression Fighters

I try to eat at least six baby tomatoes in my salad each day for lunch because tomatoes contain lots of folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which are good for fighting depression. According to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, many studies show an elevated incidence of folate deficiency in patients with depression. In most of the studies, about one-third of depression patients were deficient in folate.

Folic acid can prevent an excess of homocysteine — which restricts the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — from forming in the body. Alpha-lipoic acid keeps coming up as I read more about nutrition and the brain, so I have begun to take it as a supplement, as well. It helps the body convert glucose into energy, and therefore stabilizes mood.

8. Beans: Satisfyingly High in Mood-Stabilizing Fiber

“Beans, beans, good for the heart. The more you eat, the more you … smile.” They make the G-BOMB list because they can act as anti-diabetes and weight-loss foods. They are good for my mood because my body (and every body) digests them slowly, which stabilizes blood sugar levels. Any food that assists me in evening out my blood sugar levels is my friend. They are the one starch that I allow myself, so on top of a salad, they help mitigate my craving for bread and other processed grains.

9. Seeds: Small but Mighty Sources of Omega-3s

When I’m close to reaching for potato chips or any kind of comfort food, I allow myself a few handfuls of sunflower seeds or any other kind of seed I can find in our kitchen. Seeds are the last food on Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS list.

Flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are especially good for your mood because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fuhrman writes, “Not only do seeds add their own spectrum of unique disease-fighting substances to the dietary landscape, but the fat in seeds increases the absorption of protective nutrients in vegetables eaten at the same meal.”

10. Apples: Ripe With Antioxidants and Fiber

An apple a day could — if eaten with the rest of these foods — keep the psychiatrist away, at least for stretches of time. Like berries, apples are high in antioxidants, which can help to prevent and repair oxidation damage and inflammation on the cellular level. They are also full of soluble fiber, which balances blood sugar swings. A snack I have grown to love is almond butter on apple slices. I get my omega-3 fatty acid along with some fiber.

By The Recovery Village Editor Camille Renzoni Reviewer Nicole Arzt Updated on01/16/20

Depression is the top cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 300 million individuals annually. While depression treatment can be multifaceted, there are several steps you can take to improve your mood naturally, including eating foods for depression.

Diet and nutrition play crucial roles in managing your well-being and boosting your energy. The best foods for depression include readily available items and produce that you may already have in your kitchen.

1. Leafy Greens

Spinach and depression may seem like a strange combination, but leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, swiss chard and watercress have numerous benefits that support both physical and mental health.

Leafy greens for depression contain folate, an essential ingredient in promoting healthy digestion and cardiovascular health. Most physicians recommend that pregnant women take folate throughout their pregnancy to mitigate the risk of birth defects. Additionally, leafy greens fight your body against toxins, help feed your gut and build enzymes.

Additionally, leafy greens are a significant part of the Mediterranean diet. Research shows that people following this diet tend to lead happier and healthier lives. They are also less likely to feel depressed than people who are not on this diet.

Consider adding more leafy greens to your diet by:

  • Making more salads for lunch and dinner
  • Blending them into fruit smoothies or other juices
  • Baking them into chips, like kale chips
  • Using the greens as wraps, like in lettuce wraps for burgers
  • Cooking them into soups

2. Blueberries

Blueberries taste delicious, and it turns out these tiny berries are full of antioxidants, too. Antioxidants help protect your body from the free radicals that can damage your cells. They can also protect your cholesterol, lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease and even improve cognitive brain function.

Additionally, eating blueberries for depression may also have mood-boosting effects. Berries appear to have similar impacts as valproic acid, which is a mood-stabilizing medication that helps regulate emotions.

Blueberries contain the antioxidant flavonoid anthocyanin, which is associated with reduced inflammation and the risk of depression. Finally, they also contain vitamin C, which can be beneficial for reducing the negative impacts of stress.

3. Salmon

Salmon also hosts several benefits and is noted as one of the most nutritious foods in the world. For one, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for reducing the risk of cancer and lowering blood pressure. Salmon also contains an impressive amount of protein (22-25 grams per serving), which makes it a filling, low-fat food.

Salmon also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which helps protect the brain and nervous system. Astaxanthin can also prevent skin damage and promote youthfulness.

Finally, salmon works hard to fight inflammation. The relationship between inflammation and depression continues to emerge through research. Scientific studies continue to demonstrate higher rates between higher inflammation and increased risk of depression. This fact may also be because inflammation causes many serious diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Any of these diseases can also increase the risk of depression.

4. Oysters

Oysters and depression share a powerful relationship. Oysters contain many significant nutrients and minerals that yield great health benefits. Oysters have high levels of important macro and micronutrients including protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, copper, manganese and selenium. They also are rich with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with general health and well-being.

Oysters also contain very high levels of zinc. Zinc is associated with boosted immunity and faster wound-healing rates. This makes the body stronger, and it can be a powerful weapon for proper development and growth.

Finally, it has long been presumed that oysters act as an aphrodisiac. This theory likely stems from the high zinc content. Zinc has been closely associated with sexual dysfunction, and zinc deficiency can lead to symptoms related to impotence and erectile dysfunction. Thus, oysters can be a beneficial asset for one’s sexual and emotional health.

5. Dark Chocolate

If you needed another excuse to dive into a chocolate indulgence, here you have it. Dark chocolate helps depression, and it can also help improve your overall health. Contrary to popular belief, dark chocolate can be extremely nutritious. A chocolate bar containing 70-85% cocoa can have 11 grams of fiber, 89% of the recommended daily intake for copper, 98% of the recommended daily intake for manganese, and 67% of the recommended daily intake for iron.

Dark chocolate also contains exceptional levels of antioxidant activity. Some research suggests that cocoa has even higher levels than fruit (including blueberries). Like other healthy foods, it can also improve brain function, protect the skin from harmful sun damage, and reduce heart disease risk.

Best of all? Research in a 30-day trial showed that eating dark chocolate positively impacted mood. Here’s your permission to indulge in moderation and reap the dark chocolate depression benefits.

6. Bananas

Bananas are a tasty and convenient snack, and bananas help depression. That’s because the fruit contains serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter that balances mood and daily functioning. Most antidepressants work to boost serotonin levels in the brain.

That said, eating a banana doesn’t improve your mood directly. The serotonin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. However, bananas do contain vitamin B6, which helps the body create serotonin. You need the daily recommended amount of this vitamin to regulate your body’s serotonin production.

Additionally, bananas are packed with fiber, low in calories, and have very little fat. They are also a rich source of Vitamin C and potassium, which boosts nerve and muscle health.

7. Walnuts

Eating walnuts for depression is a great choice. Walnuts, like most of the other foods already mentioned, are also rich in antioxidant activity. Walnuts have a higher antioxidant activity than any other nut. The activity comes from a combination of polyphenols, melatonin, and vitamin E. They also have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids compared to other nuts.

Moreover, walnuts can help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce stress and depression. Walnuts also promote a healthy gut, which can improve your overall health and boost physical energy. Finally, walnuts are also associated with male fertility and sperm health.

8. Avocados

Whether you’re smearing it on toast or whipping it into your favorite guacamole, avocados are as tasty as they are healthy. Avocado is the only fruit that provides monounsaturated fatty acids, and it also contains almost 20 minerals and vitamins like vitamins B6, C, E, and K and folate, magnesium, lutein and potassium.

If you struggle with depression and avocados seem like an easy choice to eat, they’re also healthy for the heart, may help prevent osteoporosis, and can also promote healthy vision. Avocados also contain tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin. This can help promote a good mood and general well-being.

9. Sweet Potatoes

Don’t just wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy this healthy treat. Eating sweet potatoes for depression has many benefits. These potatoes have many nutrients including high levels of vitamin A, beta-carotene and fiber. They may also help stunt the growth of foodborne bacteria from harming the body.

Sweet potatoes are also rich in magnesium, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Research shows that magnesium deficiency can result in higher levels of depression. Moreover, magnesium deficiency may also have a link to insomnia. Because sleep problems and depression can be interconnected, it is vital to make sure you have enough magnesium in your daily diet.

10. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds may be tiny, but they are full of amazing benefits. The word chia derives from the Mayan term for strength. A single ounce serving of chia seeds boasts a staggering 22 grams of fiber, 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, 30% of the recommended daily intake of manganese and magnesium, and 27% of the recommended daily intake of phosphorus. Chia seeds are also full of antioxidants.

When eaten regularly, they can lower the risk of heart disease, reduce blood sugar levels, and promote bone health. They can also help reduce chronic inflammation.

11. Beans

Beans and depression may also seem like a strange combination, but beans, legumes and peas are all great sources of many nutrients including fiber, vitamins and protein. They are full of vital nutrients like folate. They also are rich in the antioxidant, polyphenols.

People who consume beans regularly have lower rates of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. They also have lower rates of cancer, diabetes and problems associated with the liver.

Beans are also excellent in helping control appetite for individuals seeking to lose weight. That’s because they are packed with fiber and healthy starch- which can create fullness and stave off cravings. Moreover, beans can also promote positive gut health.

Diet and Depression

There does appear to be a working relationship between diet and depression. Eating the recommended foods above can help boost overall physical and emotional health. Below are some additional types of diets that can help with depression.

12. Mediterranean Diet

The link between eating a Mediterranean diet and depression is an interesting one, as those who follow this way of eating tend to have lower levels of depression. The Mediterranean diet primarily consists of:

  • Plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts)
  • Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado)
  • Herbs and spices
  • Limited red meat
  • Fish and poultry

13. Fermented Foods

There is also a pronounced relationship between fermented food and depression. Fermented foods can promote positive gut health and reduce inflammation. Fermented foods include:

  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickled vegetables

14. Raw Foods

Raw foods consist of unprocessed, plant-based and whole foods. Many people also opt to choose organic foods when following this method. Raw foods consist of:

  • Raw vegetables and fresh fruits
  • Nut milks
  • Raw nuts, nut butters and seeds
  • Soaked and sprouted beans, legumes and grains
  • Purified water
  • Green food powder
  • Fermented foods

15. Antioxidants

It is important to eat a diet rich in antioxidants for depression, as it yields both physical and emotional health benefits. The foods listed above have antioxidants. Other options include:

  • Pecans
  • Goji berries
  • Cranberries
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Grapes
  • Tea

16. Supplements

Many people take supplements for depression. Supplements can be especially important if you have a nutrient deficiency. You should always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplement.

Natural supplements for depression include:

  • Ginseng
  • St. John’s Wort
  • 5-HTP
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Tryptophan
  • Folic acid

Depression is a complex condition that can be devastating without the right care. If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction and co-occurring depression, The Recovery Village can help. Reach out to The Recovery Village to speak with one of our team members and learn about how co-occurring disorders treatment could meet your needs.

  • Sources

    The World Health Organization. “Depression.” March 22, 2018. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    McQuillan, Susan. “Foods and Supplements That May Help Fight Depression.” Psycom, March 20, 2019. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Leech, Joe. “10 Proven Health Benefits of Blueberries.” Healthline, October 9, 2019. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Spritzler, Franziska. “11 Impressive Health Benefits of Salmon.” Healthline, December 20, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Staughton, John. “8 Wonderful Benefits Of Oysters.” Organic Facts, March 6, 2019. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Gunnars, Kris. “7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate.” Healthline, June 25, 2018. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    University Health News. “Cocoa Benefits: Mood, Anxiety, and Contentment Improve In Just 30 Days.” March 9, 2018. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    McCulloch, Marsha. “13 Proven Health Benefits of Walnuts.” Healthline, July 9, 2018. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Ware, Megan. “12 Health Benefits of Avocado.” Medical News Today, September 12, 2017. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Gunnars, Kris. “11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds.” Healthline, August 8, 2018. Accessed May 28, 2019.

    Butler, Natalie. “What are the health benefits of beans?” Medical News Today, November 30, 2017. Accessed May 28, 2019.

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