An estimated 300 million people around the world suffer with depression. Most of them do not associate their symptoms with their diets. However, science is now linking diet and depression and is finding success in using diet to help treat depression and its symptoms.
Several researchers from multiple institutions conducted a study topic at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. The 12-week study observed 67 patients with moderate to severe depression.
The control group patients received social support, but did not make any changes to their diets. The other patient group received dietary counseling sessions where they were advised to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats instead.
Over 30 percent of the patients who improved their diet also experienced remission of their depression symptoms. Only 8 percent of the control group experienced this same improvement.
The participants that showed the most remarkable results made the most changes to their diets. The consensus of that study was that those suffering from depression should eliminate processed foods as much as possible.
Americans eat a lot of processed meals, which means they’re also taking in an excessive amount of added sugar. In fact, 90% of added sugars in the American diet come from processed foods!
For people with depression, added sugar may provide a short-lived burst of energy, but will then bring body and mood back down. Unfortunately, the term “sugar crash” is quite literal, and quite accurate.
Many people also partake in caffeine and alcohol on a regular basis. While a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine can actually benefit health, too much of either will directly influence a person’s mood for the worse, especially for those dealing with depression.
Rather than a processed food diet, individuals need to focus on eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and drinking plenty of water. Believe it or not, certain varieties of these foods boost not only the body, but the spirit, as well.
Here are 10 foods that can make you happy… literally!
Avocados– Because avocados contain choline, when you eat them, your body’s levels of serotonin are increased. Serotonin impacts the entire body, helping with sleeping, eating, and digestion. It is considered a natural “mood stabilizer” and helps reduce depression, and regulate anxiety. Avocados are not just a super food, but a super-happy food!
Bananas – Full of vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium, bananas provide plenty of energy to give your brain and body a boost. They are also high in fiber, making them a natural probiotic. Bananas are also an excellent source of magnesium (a natural stress-reducer.) One banana as a morning snack will fuel the body with enough magnesium for the entire day! Some people experience big sugar spikes with bananas. If you’re not sure how they affect you, start with a half-banana and check your sugar two hours later. And here's a low sugar way to get your banana fix.
Berries –Delicious, nutritious, full of vitamins and a variety of antioxidants, fresh berries are a great “happy snack.” Blueberries and acai berries are especially high in these nutrients and antioxidants. Try them by the handful, sprinkled over a bowl of Greek yogurt, or blended into a cool, refreshing smoothie.
Cocoa– Yes, chocolate makes you happy (literally and chemically!) The phenylethlyamine in chocolate makes you feel alert and cheerful. Phenylethlyamine is also known as the “love drug” because it can trigger the same feelings of excitement and contentment as being in love. Chocolate also contains a fat called anadamide which triggers dopamine production, leading to a feeling of intense well-being.
Eating chocolate releases endorphins which are known to decrease levels of both stress and pain. As a side benefit, research has suggested that cocoa’s flavanols (phytonutrients with antioxidant properties) may contribute to maintaining a healthy brain. These protective benefits could positively affect learning and memory functions.
Coffee – Research has found that drinking coffee in the morning is tied to increased levels of energy, as well as feelings of kindness and pleasure. Coffee enjoyed with friends or family is connected to feelings of affection, friendship, and satisfaction. Even when had only occasionally, a cup of coffee brings on calm and tranquility.
Greek Yogurt – Believe it or not, the type and amount of bacteria in your gut can affect your mood. Dairy products containing active cultures increase the probiotic bacteria in your gut. One study found that women who ate probiotic yogurt twice a day experienced less stress than those who ate none.
Green Tea – A Japanese study of over 40,000 people found that drinking five or more cups of green tea per day reduced stress levels by over 20% compared to those who drank less than one cup. Green tea contains L-theanine, an antioxidant thought to be the bringer of relaxation for green tea drinkers.
Mushrooms – Mushrooms, especially the shiitake variety, are packed with vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, so upping your mushroom consumption can also help up your mood!
Salmon – This delicious fish is full of vitamins B6 and B12. Vitamin B12 is used by the body for energy, and vitamin B6 is essential to the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleeping and waking cycles. Salmon is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked with improving symptoms of mood disorders.
Spinach – Spinach contains folic acid which helps to reduce fatigue and improve mood. Spinach is also rich in iron, a mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your cells, giving the body energy on a cellular level. Spinach is also rich in Vitamin C and magnesium which are crucial to the production of serotonin and dopamine – two brain chemicals responsible for making us feel happy and joyful.
So, the next time you sit down to eat, do your mind and body a favor and eat something happy!