If you ever wonder what to eat to beat depression, you probably already know that ice cream by the gallon is not going to make the list. Some folks find depression takes away any desire to eat at all. Either way, eating foods high in essential nutrients gives you your best defense against depression, and gives a little comfort to your soul as well.
To beat grey moods, eat Technicolor foods. Nature has been giving us easy clues for millennia. When foods are brightly colored and attractive, they are probably good for you, and they can be eaten like snacks. An easy trick to remember is that darker and richer the color, the more nutritious they are.
Some people feel better when they cook. Messing about in the kitchen certainly gives you lots of healthy food options, and is a rare opportunity to attack stress with a big, sharp knife. But if the mere idea of cooking makes you more depressed, there are plenty of foods to beat depression that work fine both in recipes or right out off the tree, bush or vine.
- Blueberries might be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They are a powerful source of anti-oxidants and flavonoids, and have shown to benefit both your brain and circulation. Strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries share similar high nutrient value, and taste great. Raw berries have Vitamin C, and are a perfect finger food. If you can’t get fresh berries, frozen ones are good to have on hand, though better eaten with a spoon.
- Cherries have been used for centuries to treat inflammation, which can help ease some of the achiness of depression. Bing cherries are usually the sweetest, and are a treat for your senses.
- Raisins and other dried fruits pack a nutritional wallop. In fact, prunes rate highest on the riboflavonoid scale. Dried berries, cherries, and apricots are easy to store and easy to eat. Just be sure to drink plenty of water as well, so you don’t dry out yourself.
- Tomatoes, Carrots, Greens and more. If you are not well acquainted with your local produce department, it is time to make friends. Just follow your tastes and the bright color rule, and you can’t go far wrong. Deep green vegetables are an excellent source of B6, B12 and Folate, which are especially important to eat to beat depression.
Eat fish, flaxseed, or hummus for vital Omega3s. Research has shown a link between depression and a deficit of Omega3 fatty acids. Omega3 is also known to benefit heart health, circulation, and eye health, so adding more to your diet can help you in many ways.
Excellent sources of Omega3 are wild salmon, tuna, and flax seeds, and even chia seeds. If you are not a fan of fish, try hummus on whole grain crackers, or as a vegetable dip.
Turkey sandwiches for protein, carbs and tryptophan. Turkey has long since moved away from just a holiday food, and that’s especially good if you are trying to beat depression. Turkey is a wonderful source of the amino acid tryptophan, which transforms into the feel good chemical serotonin in the brain.
The carbohydrates in whole grain bread help conduct the tryptophan to your brain, and provide B vitamins, and fiber. Turkey is also a low fat source of protein, which is important when you’re depressed. Use hummus instead of mayonnaise, add some tomato slices and dark fresh greens like spinach leaves, and you have a powerhouse anti-depression sandwich.
Dark chocolate is a mood lifter. In case you hadn’t heard, chocolate is good for you. Note I did not say “chocolates.” We are not talking bonbons or gooey candy bars here, which merely increase sugar cravings and create sugar crashes.
Dark chocolate by itself contains phenylethylamine, which has been shown to raise endorphin levels, and some compare to being in love. Chocolate with a cacao percentage of 60% works best, is lower in sugar, and if pared with nuts adds some protein and B vitamins. Melting some and dipping strawberries or dried apricots in it can make you feel truly indulgent.
Healthy comfort foods can make you feel cared for. When you were a child, did someone fix you special foods to make you feel better? Foods like chicken soup, eggnog, or custard? When you treat yourself to some of these foods, your body remembers what it felt like when someone else took care of you, and it relives those feelings of security and love.
Plus, some of our favorite comfort foods are truly good for us. Eggnog and custard, for example, contain protein from both milk and eggs, vitamins A, D, and B complex, calcium, iron, and lutein. Egg yolks also contain choline, which research links to a healthy brain.
Nature is abundant with what to eat to beat depression. And as long as you get the good things you need first, curling up with a little ice cream won’t hurt.
For further reading:
Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal, (2004), Reader’s Digest Books, Pleasantville, New York.
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