Can we eat to be in a better mood? The science seems to say yes: Filling up on certain healthy and tasty foods can actually help reduce the symptoms of ailments.
A growing body of research suggests that eating certain nutrient-dense foods can help people with depression feel better, and many of these foods are particularly abundant during spring and summer. While it’s unclear exactly how foods help with depression, this relationship makes a lot of sense when you consider that the body and brain need over 40 nutrients and a million phytonutrients to function properly.
Does diet play a role in depression? What Science Shows
We now have more than a decade of data in the field of nutritional psychiatry showing a clear link between our dietary choices and our mental health. Of course, diet is not the only factor. Experts believe that possible causes of depression also include genetics, biological factors, and psychological factors, among others.
Depression as a mood disorder has no direct cause and does not have a unique set of symptoms in everyone who has it. Although mental health is complex, it should come as no surprise that eating healthier leads to better mental health outcomes.
In fact, new research suggests that changing your diet could alter the biological factors associated with depression. One link between diet and depression appears to involve the gut microbiota, the bacteria and other microorganisms naturally found in your gut. A review article published in Nutrients in July 2019 showed that diet quality affects gut microbiota, which in turn can affect a person’s risk of depression. In short, diet can affect both the gut microbiota, nutrients (or lack thereof), and inflammatory factors in the brain, all of which can affect depression.
In addition, research findings such as the SMILES study show how nutritional management strategies may play a role in the treatment of depression. The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine in January 2017, showed that getting help from a registered dietitian to improve your diet helped improve depressive symptoms.
Key nutrients to help manage mood disorders
Certain vitamins and minerals support signaling pathways in our bodies that have been linked to a lower prevalence of depression, but we cannot say with certainty that foods rich in these vitamins and minerals will treat or prevent the disorder, which one requires a multidisciplinary approach.
Here are some nutrients that seem to play a role in mood swings
Omega-3 fatty acids
Consuming whole foods instead of supplements offers the most health benefits.
Wondering which foods to choose? Here’s a detailed look at seven hot-weather options that contain these nutrients and why taking them as part of an overall treatment plan for depression can help.
1 Watermelon has anti-inflammatory properties
This sweet summer meal is not only a great refreshment. Watermelon is also an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects delicate brain tissue. Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes, up to 20 milligrams (mg) in each 2-cup serving. The lycopene in watermelon helps reduce the risk of inflammation associated with dementia and possibly depression. Aside from its lycopene content, watermelon is an excellent choice to replace high-sugar treats.
A study of postmenopausal women, published in June 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that a diet high in added sugars was associated with an increased risk of depression. Many people tend to comfort themselves with sugar, which can have a negative impact on mental health. Instead, watermelon is packed with nutrients.”
2 Shrimp are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
If you’re looking for an easy, mood-boosting meal, throw some shrimp on the grill. Shrimp contain omega-3 fatty acids, studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve symptoms of depression and improve mood. According to a review article published in the British Journal of Psychology in January 2018, low levels of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids in the body have been linked to psychiatric conditions such as depression. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna.
3 peppers are packed with fiber
One bell pepper (any color) contains about 2 grams of fiber. Why is that important? A study conducted in February 2021 found that fiber consumption was associated with a reduced risk of depression. The study, published in Menopause, showed that higher fiber intake was associated with less depression in perimenopausal women.
4 Corn is a very healthy carbohydrate
Starchy vegetables like corn are considered high-quality carbohydrates that are packed with fiber and nutrients. “So feel free to enjoy your corn on the cob grilled or toss the kernels in a salad.
5 Cherries can improve mood and brain power
Cherries are high in flavonoids, which may protect against depression. A July 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming higher amounts of flavonoids may be associated with a lower risk of depression. These are powerful antioxidants that can reduce inflammation/damage in brain cells. Focusing on flavonoid-rich foods like cherries can be a good complementary approach for those looking to optimize brain health from a nutritional perspective.
6 Asparagus is rich in folic acid
One of the most delicious spring vegetables, asparagus is packed with antidepressant nutrients like folic acid, a B vitamin, as well as potassium and many other essential vitamins and minerals.
Evidence of its potential antidepressant effects: A review article published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in December 2017 found that people with depression have lower amounts of folic acid in their bodies and diet than people without depression.
7 Cucumbers will help you hydrate
Cucumbers abound in the warmer months, whether you grow your own or stock up at the local farmers markets. And they are packed with health benefits. But one of the main reasons cucumbers can help relieve symptoms of depression is that they’re mostly made up of water, which can help you stay hydrated in hot weather. Research shows that staying hydrated can support your mental health. A September 2018 study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry found an association between water scarcity and an increased risk of depression. Not to mention that cucumbers are high in B vitamins, which promote good mental health.
* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.
Like our content?
Receive our latest publications directly in your mailbox every day free of charge
summer eat good mood