Depression can range from a self-limiting case of blues to a life-threatening illness. It affects millions of people and casts a great burden for not only those affected, but also those around them. The usual treatment for depression is prescription antidepressant medication which is said to work by elevating levels of the feel-good chemicals in the brain. However, prescription antidepressants normally work for less than 1/2 of those who use them, have a significantly high relapse rate, and not to mention the serious side effects they can cause.
Fortunately, there are many natural and effective ways of treating depression, which have been scientifically proven to work even better than the antidepressants.
Here are 9 great foods & drinks that all depression sufferers should get more of:
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 polyphenols also work to increase insulin sensitivity. This maintains a steady supply of glucose (fuel) in the brain.
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.
A 100-gram bunch of almonds contains 268 mg of magnesium. According to experts, magnesium works wonders for treating depression. 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!
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.
Avocados are power foods because 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 monosaturated 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 (B-9, B-6, and B-5), vitamin C, and vitamin E-12. Finally, they are low in sugar and high in dietary fiber, containing about 11 grams each.
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.
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. A couple bananas throughout your day should do the trick!
Blueberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available to us. 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. They are like DNA repairmen. They go around fixing your cells and preventing them from getting cancer and other illnesses.
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.
Another food high in folic acid is asparagus. It is also rich in B vitamins, which boost mental health by helping your body’s tryptophan conversion. Tryptophan is the compound your body converts into serotonin (happy neurotransmitter).