By: Lauren Martin, ARAMARK Dietetic Intern
Reviewed by Rebecca Stack, MPH, RD, LDN at Bryn Mawr Hospital
Due to the shorter days and colder temperatures have you feeling down in the dumps? You are not alone! Luckily, researchers have found that certain foods may actually be able to help improve feelings of depression and sadness. Take a look at the following nutritional powerhouses, and try to make it a goal to incorporate one or more into your daily diet.
Magnesium is known to play a role in neuron signal transduction and hormone regulation. A link has been found between low amounts of erythrocyte magnesium and severe major depression in patients. Other studies showed the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation in improving symptoms of depression.
Sources: Tofu, legumes, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, wheat bran, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and soybeans.
Hormone serotonin is known as the “happy hormone”, known to elevate mood. Carbohydrates help increase levels of serotonin in the body short-term, but those high in sugar and fat in the long term contribute to weight gain and increase risk for other serious health problems.
Sources: Choose low-fat, high fiber carbohydrate choices such as a baked potato, low-fat popcorn, fruit or whole grain pastas for a little pick-me-up.
3. Omega 3
A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids has been shown in several studies to help improve depression scores and decrease signs of irritability. Omega 3 fatty acids are also shown to have a positive impact on mood swings in individuals with postpartum depression. One gram per day is most frequently recommended. Levels higher than one gram have not been proven to be more effective.
Sources: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, flaxseeds, nuts, soybeans and dark leafy green vegetables.
4. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important in the formation of red blood cells. A deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition that is commonly known to cause mood swings, irritability, confusion and paranoia. Thus, studies suggest that vitamin B12 is linked with improving mood regulation associated with depression.
Sources: Choose seafood, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fortified grains and cereals and supplemental forms of vitamin B12 to help regulate your mood.
Folate is another nutrient essential for red blood cell formation, with deficiency resulting in anemia. Depression is common in people with a folic acid deficiency. In addition, a diet high in folate has been shown to help lower the risk of recurring episodes of depression.
Sources: Beans especially lentils, garbanzo, kidney, black and navy; dark leafy greens such as spinach, collard and turnip greens; corn, asparagus and peanuts.
Exercise! For some, it may be more effective than anti-depressants at increasing serotonin and improving your mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily and see what difference it can make.