Depression doesn’t come in a one-size fits all format. In fact, this condition ranges vastly in with mild to very severe symptoms of chronic sadness, apathy, and withdrawal, irritability, loss of interest, lack of focus, and more. Clinical depression is the most serious form of depression and its effects are holistic. Many patients describe clinical depression as having a barrier between them and the world or akin to having a second “self” that demeans and puts you down at every chance. When left untreated, clinical depression can lead to a sense of total hopelessness and even contemplations of suicide.
While depression is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that must be managed with the help and monitoring by a mental health professional, several food choices have been shown to help stabilize mood and reduce the symptoms of depression, including:
1. Mediterranean dishes
The Mediterranean diet features a lot of fish, legumes, olive oil, nuts, fresh fruits and veggies. It also means very little in the way of processed or sugary as these are the least mood stabilizing foods. One study examined a group of depressed patients who consumed a Mediterranean diet versus a group who only received social support. Findings showed that a third of those in the first group experienced significant alleviation in their depressive symptoms compared to only 10% improvement from those in the social support group.
2. Leafy green salads
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and romaine lettuce contain high amounts of folate and vitamin B. Low amounts of folate are also associated with clinical depression. Consuming folate has also been shown to boost serotonin. Salads also usually include fresh fruit, veggies, and a bit of dairy. All of which naturally boost serotonin.
Dairy, such as eggs, yogurt, and milk contain tryptophan. Tryptophan makes serotonin. So anything that boosts tryptophan, a “feel good” chemical in the brain is recommended for patients with depression. Think yogurt, milk (not bingeing on ice cream), eggs, and cheese to boost brain and mental health.
Tuna and salmon are high in vitamin D. In fact, eating seafood is generally better than taking vitamin D supplements. The supplements can be toxic if taken in too high a dose because they’re water soluble. Oysters and lobster also include zinc. It is not certain if there is any correlation between low levels of zinc and depression. However, limited research shows that consuming zinc may help naturally boost mood.
5. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are a plant-based nutrient that contains antioxidants. A large study of women with previous clinical depression found that consuming a high amount of flavonoids tends to lower the risk of overall depression.