As a depression sufferer who’s spent several years learning to cope with the illness, I can confidently say it’s every bit as physical as it is mental.
Yeah, we often speak about ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ illness as if they’re two distinctly different things. But as you dive into the facts, that distinction becomes blurrier and blurrier.
The truth is that what goes on in your body will have a major effect on what happens upstairs. The great part? You have a large say in whether that effect is good or bad. Every day, you make the call – by choosing what to eat!
Here are 9 great foods & drinks that all depression sufferers should get more of.
#1 – Green Tea
People have been using green tea to battle depression for thousands of years. According to research, polyphenols in green tea boost the brain’s supply of dopamine – a ‘happy’ neurotransmitter. Those handy dandy polyphenols also work to increase insulin sensitivity. This maintains a steady supply of glucose – fuel – in the brain.
Pretty sweet, huh? The best part is that, according to one study, the benefits pile on the more green tea you drink. Once you get to four cups daily, you’re half as likely to feel depressed than if you drank none.
#2 – Almonds
A 100 gram bunch of almonds contains 268 mg of magnesium. From personal experience, I can say that magnesium works wonders for treating depression and it’s cousin, the migraine.
You don’t have to take my word for it alone, though; researchers agree!
Way back in 1968, a study found that replenishing magnesium levels (which are typically low in Americans) reverses depression, migraines and irritability.
Women and men aged 19-30 need 310 mg and 400 mg of magnesium, respectively. Men 31 and older should get 420 mg, while women need 320 mg. Eat a handful of almonds daily and you’re already well on your way!
#3 – Salmon
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon do the heavy depression-lifting here. Those omega-3s soften cell membranes and make it easier for serotonin – another happy neurotransmitter – to make its way through the brain.
Researchers have found that positive antidepressant effects increase with omega-3 fatty acid consumption. On the flip side, the side effects tend to decrease.
Make sure you stay away from farmed salmon. Buy organic instead. A whole fish will give you upwards of 1 gram of omega-3.
#4 – Avocados
You know what else contains lots of omega-3? That’s right, alligator pears.
Avocados also contain lots of potassium – 485 mg per 100 grams, to be exact. This is great because a high potassium diet is known to relieve symptoms of depression and stress.
An adult should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium daily. An avocado during snack time is a great way to start cracking on that number.
#5 – Chocolate
Wait! Hold your horses. That Kit-Kat bar is not really what we’re talking about here. If you want depression-fighting benefits, you need dark chocolate.
Researchers have found that the cocoa in dark chocolate enhances your brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine. It also reduces your level of cortisol – the ‘stress’ neurotransmitter. 40 grams of dark chocolate per day is enough to produce this effect.
#6 – Bananas
Bananas contain tryptophan – a nutrient that your brain converts into 5-HTP. 5-HTP, in turn, gets converted into positive neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin. Bananas also contain magnesium and potassium.
Take that, depression!
A couple bananas throughout your day should do the trick.
#7 – Blueberries
I know – when the blues get you down, the last thing you want to see is more blue. But trust me, this sorta blue will be totally worth it. Blueberries have antioxidant properties. This means they reduce oxidative stress – a prime feature of depression.
Blueberries also help your brain grow new cells, which in itself is believed to treat depression.
#8 – Spinach
Of all the dark leafy greens, spinach contains the most folic acid. That’s great because folic acid deficiency tends to be common among those with depression. Folic acid also boosts your brain’s level of those friendly chemicals, serotonin and dopamine. It’s often used to boost antidepressant effectiveness. Spinach is also high in magnesium.
All of this goes to say that you should definitely pile the spinach onto that dinner plate!
#9 – Asparagus
Another food high in folic acid is asparagus. Everyone’s favorite stalk-y vegetable is also rich in B vitamins, which boost mental health by helping your body’s tryptophan conversion. Remember, tryptophan is the compound your body converts into serotonin.