It’s the twenty first century and lifestyles are undergoing a massive change – changes in clothes, habits, customs, levels of physical activity and food habits can be seen everywhere. Fast food joints are mushrooming all over and unhealthy junk food seems to rule our lives. In such a scenario, it is not surprising that many of us don’t have the adequate amounts of nutrition and vitamins in our body. Furthermore, a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugars is a commonality shared between different depressive illnesses and alcohol can also have a severe depressant effect.
Unfortunately, such kinds of diets and food habits are quite common these days. This lack of nutrition can manifest itself in many ways – feeling tired and listless is just one of its many side effects. If you have the blues, the solution could be as simple as a change in food habits. Almost all of us go through mild depression during some phase of our life. If you feel that the depression you are suffering from is not so severe and want to know what you can do about it naturally, one of the ways could be identifying foods which have anti-depressant qualities and consuming them, instead of supplements or popping a pill. Eating food is often better than supplements because foods often have nutrients which complement each other and help in better absorption by our bodies. Read on to know the top ten foods which can help fight depression.
This kitchen staple in Indian homes is often recommended for common illnesses and for general well-being by our grandmothers and is quite famed for its beautifying properties, but did you know that it can help fight depression too? Turmeric is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties and its active ingredient Curcumin has therapeutic and anti-depressant properties. Part of the anti-depressant properties present in Curcumin is due to the increase in a serotonin which is caused by the compound. Serotonin is a “happy” chemical produced in the body and is very useful in fighting depression.
Dairy is often avoided by many weight-conscious people, but dairy products are a rich source of calcium, vitamin D and protein which are great for the body. It is a great source of nutrients and specific peptides which help create a sense of well-being and relaxation, and which makes it a great food for fighting depression. If you are a person who avoids dairy due to its calorie content, then you can go for low fat versions which give you very similar nutritional content and vitamins. For example, instead of milk you can try skimmed milk.
Oranges, like other fruits, have natural and “complex” sugars which are good for your body and do not cause it to “crash” after some time, unlike “simple” sugars. Fruits in general also contain multivitamins and flavonoids. Flavonoids are essentially antioxidants and can hinder the symptoms of mild depression. Although there are many fruits which contain flavonoids, citrus fruits like oranges are a particularly excellent choice because they are filled with vitamin C which helps your body to produce dopamine. Dopamine is another “feel good” hormone necessary for fighting depression. Another plus side of eating oranges is that it will also keep your red blood cell count high.
7. WHOLE GRAIN FOODS
Whole grains are healthy and are full of high-fibre carbohydrates, also known as “complex” or “smart” carbohydrates. They improve mood quickly and don’t crash, unlike unhealthy choices like cakes, which are full of “simple” carbohydrates. You can get your dose of high-fibre, healthy carbohydrates through sources like oatmeal, brown rice, whole pasta, sweet potatoes, etc – there is a range of choices. Apart from carbohydrates, many of these sources also have other, equally important nutrients.
Turkey is a lean source of protein and therefore is an especially good food for those looking to lose weight and those who eat meat. Although, there are other lean sources of protein, turkey gets a leg up in the game when we look at their anti-depressant properties since turkey has comparatively higher levels of the chemical tryptophan which helps in stimulating serotonin production – an essential chemical for fighting against depression.
5. BREWER’S YEAST
Brewer’s yeast is a great choice for an anti-depressant food if you can stomach it. It is a source of vitamins B1, B2 and B3 and this amazing superfood also contains 16 amino acids and 14 minerals. Amino acids are vital for the nervous system which makes it an awesome choice if you have the blues. Just a pinch of it is enough for you to get its benefits. However, you should talk to your doctor before consuming brewer’s yeast since it can lower blood sugar (and therefore should not be taken if you have low blood sugar) and can cause dangerously high blood pressure if taken in conjunction with certain foods or medicines.
Chickpea is another food item which can be found in virtually any Indian kitchen and is a great source of nutrients like vitamin B6 and folic acid. Apart from that, chickpeas also have a high dose of Tryptophan, which is an amino acid which is really important and helps produce the chemical serotonin. Chickpea is the richest in Tryptophan within its genus of plants. The other nutrients it contains, like folic acid, also have a part to play in chickpea’s anti-depressant functions. Folic acid is an important ingredient in the conversion of amino acids into neurotransmitters so that it can help in fighting depression. Without this, the conversion process will stop and serotonin levels will drop, which makes it an essential food for fighting against depression.
Walnuts are rich sources, in fact, the richest plant-based sources of omega 3 fatty acids which help in keeping your nerve membranes flexible, and boost oxygen levels in the blood. This extra oxygen also helps in the conversion of amino acids into neurotransmitters. Some studies have also shown that the absence of DHA, a form of omega 3 fat, hampers the transmission of essential anti-depressant chemicals in the body such as serotonin and dopamine. On a plus side, walnuts are also small enough to be carried around in your purse or wallet for a mood-lifting boost throughout the day.
If you consume fish, fatty fish such as tuna is also an excellent choice and performs very similar functions
2. GREEN TEA
How many times have you heard green tea being recommended for your overall health? These days, it is rare for a person to not be aware of green tea’s heath benefits. Green tea is widely known for its effects on increasing metabolism, helping with weight loss, slowing signs of aging and most importantly, the awesome antioxidant properties it has which are generally very good for your body. When we look at this healthy drink in terms of its anti-depressant properties, it scores high due to the amino acid present in it known as theanine. Theanine naturally occurs in tea leaves and provides relaxation from stress. You should have 6 to 8 cups of green tea throughout the day to get optimum benefits. If this famed drink isn’t in your pantry till now, it should be!
Countless times have we seen a heroine cry over her unrequited love and simultaneously gobbling up chocolate in romance movies? Chocolate already has quite a reputation in terms of it being an anti-depressant in popular culture. However, if you want to use chocolate to feel better, it should be kept in mind that for this purpose, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better. Dark chocolate is ideal. Chocolate contains certain chemicals which affect the brain by releasing endorphins and serotonin. However, you should not gobble chocolate since it is quite a calorie dense food and therefore not so great in large amounts for people who are watching their weight and/or health.