What Is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood    
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed    
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dietingo    
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much    
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue 
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)  
  • Feeling worthless or guilty    
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions    
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • A depressed mood during most of the day, especially in the morning    
  • You feel tired or have a lack of energy almost every day 
  • You feel worthless or guilty almost every day
  • You have a hard time focusing, remembering details, and making decisions
  • You feel restless or slowed down
  • Feel irritable and restless    
  • Lose pleasure in life    
  • Overeat or stop feeling hungry    
  • Have aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment    
  • Have sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

Which foods are good for 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. Few foods you can include in your diet to safeguard your mental health are :

1. Dark Leafy Greens: A Nutrient-Dense Inflammation Fighters 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 all. “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. Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation.

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.         

3. Berries: Full of Cell-Repairing Antioxidants

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available to us. People who are treated with antioxidants have 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.

4. Beans: Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, both of which help to maintain stable and consistent blood sugar levels. In addition to helping minimize the blood sugar spikes and dips that can affect our mood, beans are also great sources of folate. Folate is a B vitamin that helps the body use vitamin B12 and amino acids, helping the body to detox cells and create new cells. Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) are very high in folate, offering over 100 percent of the daily recommended value in just a half cup. Pinto beans are another great choice, with a half cup serving offering 37 percent of the daily recommended value of folate.

5. Seeds: Flaxseed and chia seeds are wonderful additions to your diet if you struggle with depression. As with some of the other foods mentioned, these two types of seeds are particularly great sources of Omega-3 fats. Just one tablespoon of chia seeds provides approximately 61 percent of your daily recommended amount of Omega-3 and one tablespoon of flaxseed provides roughly 39 percent of the daily recommendation. As you can see, these two seeds pack a powerful punch if you are looking for small ways to improve your diet and your mood. Pumpkin and squash seeds are a great addition for increasing tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that produces niacin and helps create serotonin. Pumpkin and squash seeds near the top of the list, with just one ounce providing approximately 58 percent of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

6. Poultry: Chicken and turkey are both great sources of lean protein that can help to stabilize blood sugar levels, keeping your mood well-balanced during the day. In addition to being trusted sources of lean protein, turkey and chicken breasts are known to provide high amounts of tryptophan. Again, this is beneficial because it helps create serotonin, which assists us in maintaining healthy sleep and a balanced mood. Just 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast offers 123 percent of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan. Many of us already eat chicken breast regularly but incorporating more lean protein such as turkey and chicken during your week can help you increase your intake of tryptophan

7. Vegetables: Yes, you need to eat your veggies! Although this is important for everyone, eating vegetables can be of great help if you struggle with depression. Leafy green vegetables, in particular, are good sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is one of the three main types of Omega-3 fatty acids, the other two being DHA and EPA. When considering vegetables to help increase your Omega-3's, the powerful players tend to be Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, and watercress. Folate, fiber, and other nutrients also make vegetables, especially the darker leafy greens, a wonderful choice when looking for foods to help improve and stabilize mood.

8. Fish: Wild-caught fish, especially the more oily types such as salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, and tuna (not canned), are great choices to help fight depression. Why? Because they are rich sources of fats. Omega-3 fats help to build connections between brain cells as well as build and strengthen the receptor sites for neurotransmitters. So, an increase in Omega-3's in your diet can help lead to increased serotonin production and improvement of mood.

9. Beets: A cup of beets packs in a whopping 37 percent of your daily recommended folate. Early evidence suggests folate deficiency could be linked to depression, and might make antidepressants less effective. Study results are mixed—some have found that folic acid supplements actually don’t ease depression symptoms—but it can’t hurt to load up on healthy foods that just so happen to have the B vitamin. Include at least two folate-rich foods in your diet, such as spinach, broccoli, orange juice, or chard. Check out these other foods proven to improve your mood.1

10. Plums: Research has shown that a high intake of flavonoids—a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables—can lower risk of depression. Falconoid-rich foods that fight depression include plums, apples, yellow onions, and tea. Don’t miss these simple as they ward off depression.

11. Eggs: Fat, fat, and more fat. Never pass on those eggs at brunch! It might sound strange, but fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Diets that include healthy fats from egg yolks and up to 3 tablespoons a day of olive oil have been associated with lowered rates of anxiety and depression. Eggs contain vitamins and minerals that are needed for the regular functioning of cells, including the brain, nervous system, memory, and metabolism.