Your antidepressant diet
In most cases, you don’t have to take antidepressant medication. You can cure your depression naturally. Your antidepressant diet should consist of a variety of foods that have to provide you with the nutrients that play a crucial role in getting your feet back on the ground.
In fact, there is no specific diet to treat depression, but eating more of some foods and less or none of others can help you prevent or manage depression.
Along with the other old standbys, exercise and sleep, the growing recognition of the importance of the antidepressant diet in regulating mood may give you scientifically proved reasons to eat smarter. Try to see if it helps.
What is the difference between being depressed and feeling down?
We shouldn’t confuse clinical depression and feeling down; there is a big difference between them. Clinical depression (also called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a mental illness characterized by at least three weeks of pervasive low mood, low self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.
Your antidepressant diet has to have 7 crucial nutrients
The food you eat is directly linked to your brain which creates your state of happiness (or unhappiness). Just one example to start with: there are four major “hormones of happiness” – DOSE: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins. Since dopamine is synthesized from an amino acid tyrosine, you can simply eat foods rich in tyrosine – the best injection of this “happy hormone”.
Your antidepressant diet has to have these seven crucial nutrients:
- omega-3 fatty acids
- amino acid tryptophan
- amino acid tyrosine
- B vitamins
The positive results of the antidepressant diet depend on how you ate before – if burgers and pizza, then, of course, in a couple of weeks you will feel much better. But remember that the antidepressant diet is not a 2-month project. It’s a lifestyle.
Involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, zinc is a mighty micro-element. It plays a dramatic role in the synthesis of serotonin, one of four hormones of happiness. Not only has zinc deficiency been shown to induce depression-like and anxiety-like behavior, zinc supplementation has been used as a treatment for major depression. Researchers from the University of Barcelona found that people had higher levels of serotonin metabolites after zinc-rich foods consumption. Maintaining adequate zinc levels can improve your overall well-being, helping you feel healthier and happier.
Foods rich in zinc
Oysters are champions – they contain more zinc per serving than any other food. (Oysters are also the best edible aphrodisiac due to a high level of zinc.) Pumpkin seeds are the second best. Beef contributes 20% of zinc intakes from food in the United States because it is commonly consumed. Eggs, seafood, dairy products, and nuts also contain zinc.
Selenium plays an important role in the nervous system, including the brain, where it acts as a cofactor for glutathione peroxidase and is incorporated into selenoproteins involved in antioxidant defenses. Within the brain, selenium protects against oxidative stress and inflammation and increases happy hormones production. Selenium has been scientifically proven to prevent depression and anxiety. Published in the Frontiers in Nutrition in 2021, a case-control study with 1,494 women aged 20–89 years reported that dietary intake of lower selenium was associated with an increased risk of developing major depressive disorder.
Foods rich in selenium
Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium – a serving of 6 nuts supplies 774% of its Daily Value (DV)! Snack on two or three Brazil nuts per day! Deviation from the optimal content of dietary selenium, both above or below may cause multiple health abnormalities.
Other foods containing high amounts of selenium are pork, beef, turkey, chicken, fish, shellfish, and eggs.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Many clinical trials found that omega-3 fatty acids have a significant antidepressant effect in patients diagnosed with MDD. Because they can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation in the brain, as well as regulates neurotransmitters – when you’re feeling tense or stressed, these acids help keep cortisol and adrenaline from spiking, thereby reducing anxiety.
Not all Omega-3 fatty acids are created equal
There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids that are involved in human physiology:
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – comes from plant sources
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) –comes from plant and animal sources
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – comes from animal sources only
Not all Omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. Most of the health benefits of omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based EPA, not the plant-based ALA. Our body has a limited ability to convert ALA into the most beneficial EPA. It means that even if you consume large amounts of ALA from plant sources, your body can only convert a small amount into EPA.
Omega-3 fish oil supplements are useless
Please note that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements will do no good (no bad either) for you. They are useless. Published in JAMA in 2021, results from the largest clinical trial of its kind led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital do not support the use of omega-3 supplements to help cure or prevent depression.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fatty fish and salmon is the champion.
Amino acid tryptophan
Amino acid tryptophan is a biochemical precursor for serotonin, which is a well-known hormone of happiness. Serotonin produces your happiness, and tryptophan produces serotonin. The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight: a person weighing 70kg (about 154 pounds) should consume approximately 280mg of tryptophan per day.
Foods rich in amino acid tryptophan
Pumpkin seeds are super rich in tryptophan – 576mg of tryptophan per 100g (206% DV), or 16mg/oz (58% DV), more than in meat (lamb, beef, pork contain 415mg of tryptophan per 100g – 148% DV).
Amino acid tyrosine
Amino acid tyrosine is required for dopamine production. Although dopamine is found in many types of food, it is incapable of crossing the blood–brain barrier that surrounds and protects the brain. Therefore, it must be synthesized inside the brain from tyrosine. The recommended daily intake for phenylalanine and tyrosine is 25mg per kilogram of body weight, or 11mg per pound.
Foods rich in amino acid tyrosine
A 100g serving of pumpkin seeds contains 1093mg (125% DV) or 306mg/oz (35% DV) of tyrosine, as much as a serving of salmon! Fish, chicken, turkey, and soy products are also good sources of tyrosine.
B Vitamins have been called the “happy vitamins” or “anti-stress vitamins” because they can improve your mood and increase your tolerance to stress.
- B6 can help the body manufacture neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which aids in the body’s ability to cope with depression, stress and anxiety. B6 may also help boost the immune system during times of anxiety.B6 is crucial for dopamine and serotonin production.
- B9 strengthens memory and concentration while preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
- B12 is an exceptional, unique vitamin. It is of vital importance for us. B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body. It plays a key role in the normal functioning of our brain and nervous system, the red blood cells formation, DNA synthesis, fatty acid and amino acid metabolism.
Foods rich in B Vitamins
- B vitamins generally: Consuming adequate amounts of B vitamins puts you on the path to a happy and healthy diet. Some top sources include meat (especially liver), seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.
- Vitamin B12: However, no fungi, plants or animals are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria have the enzymes needed for its synthesis. Animals must obtain vitamin B12 directly or indirectly from bacteria, and we obtain it from them. Some of the richest sources are clams, salmon, meat, dairy, and eggs.
Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics that produce healthy and diverse gut bacteria, and bacteria, in turn, through different biochemical reactions produce various chemicals including neurotransmitters and short-chain fatty acids. These compounds regulate the immune system, fight inflammation that harm the lining of the blood vessels, and promote the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Researchers have found a strong link between the quality of people’s diets and the size of their hippocampus.
Foods high in probiotics
The most common fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics, or have probiotics added to them, include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread and some cheeses.