Do you sometimes feel robbed of your enthusiasm for life? I used to sulk and whine for no real reason and choke up on the gloominess all the more. Terrible feeling.
Feeling let down, lonely, or sad could be your normal reaction to a bad day at work or home. On the other hand, if the feelings begin to overpower and last longer, and are characterized by physical symptoms, your condition may be chronic.
Depression – All Pressure and No Pleasure
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), almost 40 million grown-ups in the United States are affected by depression.
It is imperative that we are conscious of depression as a chronic condition, and not look at it as having the blues. Look out for those moments where unanticipatedly you are overcome by sadness, guilt, annoyance, and a feeling of hopelessness, because these are what mark the symptoms of depression.
When ignored, the symptoms may worsen and lead to unimaginable suffering and even suicide.
Some of the symptoms of depression as put down by the National Institute of Mental Health include:
- Reduced energy and a feeling of over-tiredness
- Loss of appetite or excessive eating
- Feeling pessimistic in general, about everything
- Restlessness and irritation for no reason
- Wakefulness or excessive sleeping
When these symptoms persist and begin to negatively affect your life, causing issues at work and in your personal life, it’s time to look for help.
Help could be in the form of expensive counseling, medication, meditation, and more counseling and medications, and so on. But there’s another way.
What if I tell you, we can eat to beat depression? Food! Did I say FOOD? Oh, yes. Let’s get you drooling by the end of the article!
How to eat your way out of depression
Struck by curiosity, I once asked a nutritionist friend of mine what exactly comfort foods mean. She told me that what we eat affects our mood. I listened closely since she knows her stuff.
She continued saying, “All foods are comfort foods. I feel better when I eat anything.” Bang! I lost every belief on her philosophical abilities.
In reality, many of us find comfort in eating some food on those days we are feeling bummed out.
Yet, there is a difference in how each food can work as your emotional anesthesia. Randomly feasting on foods that make you feel better is a cheap and unhealthy compromise that gives a momentary reprieve from anxiety.
Down the road, such eating habits will only leave you weighing on the far end of the scale.
The science behind eating and feeling good
Any life event, small or big, can put you under stress. Even the silly squabbles with your partner or a delay in delivering your office reports could become a mental strain.
Ever wondered how small minutiae take such a toll on your mental health? Stress causes blood cortisol levels to rise, and cortisol makes you crave for food.
What’s more, cortisol provokes an enzyme in your fat cells, converting cortisone into more cortisol. Worse, these enzymes are present in abundance in the fat cells around your abdomen than the cells around your thighs.
This is when your physique begins to mimic the shape of the number zero and you are far away from size zero!
Studies by the researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center reveal that women especially, when stressed, crave strongly for carbs, especially the sugary part of it.
This explains why most women under stress tend to accumulate belly fat. So while I am here yapping about comfort food, you better have a good reason for popping that candied toffee into your mouth.
The ACTUAL Feel-Good Foods You Should Eat when Stressed
Doctors forever offer advice on how important it is to eat regularly and to ensure you include some food from each of the food groups in your diet.
Ideally, a healthy diet will be rooted on starchy foods like rice, taken along with a good deal of cereals, fruits and veggies, along with some protein in the form of meat and lentils.
Not to forget the milk and dairy products in limited portions. This diet will ensure your body gets all the nutrition it requires.
There is no exact diet that will completely cure you of your depression, but living on a healthy, balanced, and nutrition-rich diet will help as an overall therapy when you are depressed.
Here are some of the 11 best foods that help with depression:
Depression has been linked to low levels of folate. Many people resort to pills and other medications for sources of B vitamins, which convert to folic acid in our body. Well, here’s your folate deficiency saver, the long slender stalks of Asparagus.
Asparagus is rich in folate in tryptophan, which release serotonin in your brain and balance your mood levels.
One cup of asparagus equals two-t.i.d. of the mood-enhancing nutrient required in a day. Also, it is simple to fit this veggie into your meals:
- Steam and add to your salads or serve as sides for grilled meat
- Barbecue, with some mustard topping
- Broil until it is crisp
- Sauté the tips and top them on your omelets
- Grill them and add a lemon juice dressing with sprinkled pepper
There are umpteen reasons for which I will vouch for asparagus as a superfood. It is known for its anti-fungal properties and it cleanses the body, avoiding formation of kidney stones.
Great for your heart’s functioning, asparagus also lowers cholesterol. Need I say more? Go grab some from your veggie vendor.
#2 Walnuts and Cashews
Nuts, invariably, are on almost everyone’s snack list. The crunchiness and saltiness are hard to resist.
Among the richest omega-3 fatty acid sources that is plant-based, walnuts have been studied and proven as food that provides an intellectual edge.
The alpha-linolenic acid and other polyphenols found in walnuts are known to defend against issues related to memory loss.
Cashews, on the other hand, are a fantastic source of zinc, low levels of which have been linked to cause depression. Interestingly, there is no way the human body can reserve zinc.
For this reason, it is important we feed our body some of the mineral on a daily basis. Alternating between cashews and walnuts will help you not get sick and tired of eating the same nut every day.
There is always some good news for the berry lovers, which is almost all of us. I mean, it is hard to say no to berries!
Top chefs around the globe are churning out one dessert after the other, and each is divine in its own ways. What is more divine about these berries is that they are excellent depression fighters.
Recent studies show that the natural ingredients in berries are strikingly similar in chemical properties to those of drugs prescribed to stabilize mood.
Blackberries, strawberries, and raspberry are some of the greatest antioxidants out there in the form of food. Berries will fix your cells and guard them against several illnesses.
Your blueberries may be blue, but they sure get you to come out of your blues.
The 2007 edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry mentioned that you are under a greater risk of going under depression if the folate from your diet is insufficient.
Folic acid is a prerequisite to avoid excess formation of homocysteine in your body. Tomatoes contain plenty of this folic acid and also alpha-lipoic acid that balance your mood while converting glucose into energy.
Toss some baby tomatoes to your salad or juice them and drink up.
Did you even imagine you’ll spot an onion on the list of feel good foods? Allium vegetables including garlic, shallots, leeks, and onions have been noted for their cancer reducing abilities.
Onions even feature on Dr. Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS, an acronym to remind everyone the most nutrient-packed foods that must form a part of your diet.
The folate in onions works to shut out the formation of homocysteine in the body. An excess of homocysteine dodges all nutrients from reaching your brain and hinders the release of the good-mood hormones including dopamine and serotonin.
#6 Chamomile and Green Tea
A popular and highly endorsed bedtime pacifier, the chamomile tea has been tested over and again, only to have been discovered that it promotes sleep, over and above its nerve calming properties. Mark a favorite spot on your bed and make sure you settle down with a cup, iced or hot, before you hit the bed.
We all have been a witness to the expose on how incredible the green tea is as a source of antioxidants. Little did we notice the amino acid theanine’s depression fighting traits.
As an avid tea drinker, if you find relaxation in sipping a hot cup of tea, please don’t forget to thank the theanine you just helped yourself to.
We should probably tweak the saying to “An apple a day keeps the depression away”; well, if only eaten with the other right nutrient rich foods.
The soluble fiber rich apples ensure your blood sugar levels are regulated. Moreover, the antioxidants in apples work like those in berries, by preventing and fixing oxidation damage.
The last food on Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS list, seeds release substances that fight diseases and help more nutrients to be absorbed from the vegetables consumed along with your favorite seeds.
Pick and choose among sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin, and hemp seeds, and help yourself to a handful of them against the bag of potato chips when you feel down in the dumps.
Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are especially the top feel-good seeds to ease depression because of the omega-3 fatty acids that have been proven to reduce depression and ensure good sleep.
Get sprinkling some on your granola bars or simply toast and pop them into your mouth.
#9 Oatmeal and Other Whole Grains
Whole grains are brimming with essential nutrients. What better than feeling good and doing your body some good at the same time? Complex carbs are always a top choice to get your mood swinging happily.
According to research, kids, whose breakfast was mainly oatmeal, continued to stay energetic and sharp throughout the day.
Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes are great foods for triggering the body to release serotonin, the chemical that initiates a soothing feeling, de-stressing your mind and body.
Make your body stress-proof with a regular helping of avocado sandwich. This power fruit contains the healthy fat your brain needs for its smooth functioning.
Since avocado has a savory flavor and creamy texture, many of us wrongly assume it as a vegetable. Just like asparagus, avocados are high in tryptophan and folate content.
Avocados are rich in glutathione, which prevents your intestine from absorbing damage causing fats. The fruit is also low in sugar but high in calories that come from fat which is present in the form of oleic acid. It is the protein found in avocado that makes the fruit a depression fighter.
Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in your body that enhances your mood. The protein in avocado plays a similar role of antidepressants in boosting the dopamine release.
Avocados react better when consumed with other foods. They are, hence, known as nutrient boosters since the body is able to better absorb nutrients, such as carotenoids that fight cancer.
The potassium in this smooth and buttery fruit protects your heart against heart diseases and aids the body in sweeping out all toxins.
#11 Green Leafy Veggies
Leafy vegetables, especially the dark green ones, help keep your body fitted out to fight the cancerous cells.
Packed with oodles of anti-cancer properties, green leafy vegetables, especially spinach and kale, are excellent immunity boosters. They prepare your body against most inflammatory attacks.
Spinach and kale are naturally high in tryptophan. Couple them with food rich in vitamins C and B6 for the tryptophan to effectively convert into serotonin.
A perfect recipe would be a salad based on spinach and boiled eggs, tossed with lemon-orange juice (for the C vitamin).
Kiss depression goodbye
Today’s fast-paced home and work environment are driven by pressure, tension, stress, and anxiety.
Try everything you may to fit in, you will never feel part of the crowd. This feeling of tension, when prolonged, leads to depression in many of us who fear failure.
In biochemical terms, depression occurs when our body is deficient in some component. Typically, we must protect and prepare our cells with sufficient nutrients through the food we eat.
This ensures cell regeneration and prevention of any medical issue from affecting our body. When we fail to eat a nutrient-rich diet, our body faces the deficiency and affects us physically and mentally.
Never go thirsty. Even dehydration can cause your mood to swing. I have listed out foods that make you feel good. All the same, there are foods that can make you feel worse too.
DO NOT eat sweets under stress. Filling yourself up on large amounts of sugary carbs or caffeine products may give you that short-lived feel good moment, but will worsen your depression in the long run.
Despite the positives, changing your diet and beginning to exercise overnight is not going to give you immediate results and cure your depression. Certain foods can change the way you feel and it is important you are wise in choosing what to eat.
Similarly, being overweight will definitely will make you feel low-spirited. Following a healthy diet is an essential part and parcel of your overall well-being. Keeping a check on your weight is equally valuable.
So, exercise to feel good since workouts release hormones that generate a positive aura in and around you. Stay fit and full to keep yourself happy and healthy!