As a holistic psychotherapist dealing with both food and mood issues, and as a woman with her own history of depression, one of my biggest interests is how we can deal with depressive symptoms naturally. There’s a lot to be said about this, but put simply, there are foods that boost your mood, and there are those that hinder it. Foods that are processed, addictive, or to which we are sensitive can really throw our emotions for a loop. They can make us snappy, weepy, and feel like we are completely losing our sh*t.
On the other hand, incorporate the following winning nutrients, plus a few others, into your routine, and you’ll be one step closer to beating the blues — naturally.*
1. Healthy fats
Your body loves essential fatty acids! The benefits of omega-3s are nearly endless, and they are the darling of brain health. Wild-caught salmon is one of the best ways to get them. Omega-3s nourish our mostly fatty brains and reduce inflammation throughout our body (inflammation being one of the major culprits of mood disorders and practically every chronic disease we know!).
Essential fatty acids both brighten our mood and improve our cognitive functioning and alertness. If you’re not eating three servings of wild, fatty fish a week — which you absolutely may not want to do for environmental or ethical reasons — consider a supplement like krill oil or one made from algae. Other great plant-based sources of healthy fats include seeds (flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin), walnuts, and unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil and coconut oil.
2. Fermented foods
Most of us know that low serotonin levels can lead to depression. Did you also know that most of our body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, not the brain? This fact highlights the importance of making sure our intestines are full of “good” bacteria and are working properly. Fermented foods feed the healthy bacteria in our digestive system and are essential for intestinal health. Recommended fermented foods include raw sauerkraut (not the kind in the can!), kimchi, tempeh, miso, and drinks like water kefir, coconut kefir, and kombucha. You can also find health probiotics in things like yogurt and dairy kefir, but if you’re sensitive to dairy, it can be one of the top blues-causing foods around.
3. B Vitamins
Low levels of folate, B-6, and B-12 have been linked to depression. Good sources of B vitamins include legumes, nuts, brown rice, oats, dark green veggies, and nutritional yeast. B-12 is found in lean and low-fat animal products (fish and low-fat dairy). If you’re like me and aren't big on eating many (or any) animal products, you should be taking a high-quality B complex vitamin or sublingual spray every day. Note that B vitamins are destroyed by things like sugar, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine!
*Please note, if you're seriously depressed, one article or a handful of walnuts will not change that. This is not a substitute for in-person psychiatric advice or qualified therapeutic intervention. Likewise, if you're suicidal or thinking about hurting yourself, please contact a suicide hotline or your local emergency room immediately.