It is perhaps unsurprising that the food you eat can affect more than just your physical health. Multiple investigations have suggested that what we eat and drink can also play a role in our moods, and in extreme cases a particularly bad diet may contribute to a mental illness. On the other hand, eating certain foods can promote more positive feelings and can potentially offer some relief in the battle against depression. It should be noted that depression is a complex issue and is generally a result of several external influences acting together. Therefore, this list of foods should not be thought of as a list of cures for depression, but rather as a list of things to try which may be of some help.
One of the most frequently mentioned foods that can help with bad moods, oily fish are packed full of goodness. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, have a well-documented success rate when it comes to decreasing depressed feelings. It can help improve overall cardiovascular health as well and so experts recommend eating at least two portions of oily fish a week.
Foods high in protein and relatively low in saturated fats are a good idea. Turkey and chicken, for example, have high levels of a tryptophan, an amino acid which is converted into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the ultimate ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter and leads to feelings of happiness and a sense of wellbeing. It is therefore unsurprising that a low level of serotonin has been linked with feelings of depression.
Better for you than processed white rice, the brown variety contains a decent amount of B vitamins. It also provides a slow release of glucose into the bloodstream which helps avoid sudden spikes and drops which can cause bad moods and irritability. Carbohydrates can also help with the production of serotonin from tryptophan. Whole grain oats are also a good idea, providing similar benefits to those of brown rice.
In addition to the omega-3 found in oily fish there are other important fats that promote a healthy body and mind. Flaxseed, peanuts (even natural peanut butter; check it hasn’t been topped up with sugar) and avocados are all good choices. Avocados are also high in potassium and low in sodium so will do more than just help with your mental wellbeing.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium. Some psychologists associate low levels of selenium with an increased risk of depression, and a few Brazil nuts will provide you with your recommended daily intake.
As expected, the foods on this list are generally ones which will improve your body’s health as a whole. Of course care needs to be taken; peanut butter for example, whilst healthy, is very calorific and it is extremely easy to overindulge in. Nonetheless, making even small improvements to your diet can work wonders in providing you with both a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Johnny McDonald is a specialist recruiter for HCL. He regularly find jobs for dietitians in the UK.