Depression is a common mental health problem that many people experience today. Depression is a disease that affects the person’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors negatively, reduces the quality of life and can lead to serious consequences if not treated.
There are many factors that cause depression, such as genetic, biological, psychological and social factors. However, nutrition also plays an important role in the development and course of depression.
Nutrition is a basic need that affects both our physical and mental health. The foods we eat affect the functioning of our brain, our hormones, our neurotransmitters and therefore our mood.
Therefore, we need to pay attention to our eating habits to fight depression. Some foods have a happiness-inducing effect, while others can cause or worsen depression.
In this blog, we will tell you what you need to know about nutrition against depression. You will learn which foods make you happy, which ones cause depression and what depression patients should pay attention to in nutrition.
What Are the Foods That Make You Happy?
The foods that make you happy are the foods that increase the secretion of serotonin, the happiness hormone, in our brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects our mood, sleep pattern, appetite and stress coping capacity.
People with low serotonin levels may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite and irritability. Therefore, it may be beneficial to consume foods that increase serotonin levels for happiness.
The foods that make you happy include:
- Banana: Banana contains tryptophan, an amino acid that contributes to serotonin production. In addition, banana contains potassium, magnesium and B6 vitamin that help the healthy functioning of the nervous system.
- Egg: Egg also contains tryptophan. In addition, egg is rich in protein, iron, zinc, selenium and B12 vitamin, which are nutrients associated with depression.
- Fish: Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are substances that provide communication between brain cells and prevent inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can increase the risk of depression. It is recommended to consume fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardine at least twice a week.
- Walnut: Walnut also contains omega-3 fatty acids. Walnut also contains tryptophan, magnesium, folic acid and E vitamin, which are nutrients associated with depression. Consuming a handful of walnuts a day can be both a healthy snack and a happiness-inducing food.
- Oat: Oat is a grain that contains complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates keep blood sugar stable and increase serotonin secretion, thus having a protective effect against depression. Oat also contains tryptophan, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins, which are nutrients associated with depression. You can consume oat for breakfast or snacks.
- Cocoa: Cocoa is one of the most popular foods among the foods that make you happy. Cocoa contains phenylethylamine, a compound that causes dopamine, another happiness hormone, to be secreted in our brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects our reward and motivation system. Cocoa also contains antioxidants, magnesium and iron, which are nutrients associated with depression. When consuming cocoa, it is healthier to prefer dark chocolate or cocoa powder.
What Are the Foods That Cause Depression?
The foods that cause depression are the foods that negatively affect the functioning of our brain, disrupt our hormones and neurotransmitters. These foods may give a short-term satisfaction feeling but increase the risk and severity of depression in the long run.
The foods that cause depression include:
- Sugar: Sugar is one of the most harmful foods associated with depression. Sugar raises and lowers blood sugar quickly, causing mood swings. In addition, sugar increases inflammation and causes brain cells to be damaged
- Refined Grains: Refined grains also raise and lower blood sugar quickly, causing mood swings. In addition, refined grains have low fiber content, which negatively affects digestive system health. To reduce refined grain consumption, avoid white bread, rice, pasta and flour products.
- Fried Foods: Fried foods are foods that contain trans fats. Trans fats can cause depression by increasing inflammation and disrupting communication between brain cells. In addition, fried foods contain acrylamide, a substance that forms in starchy foods cooked at high temperatures and damages the nervous system. To reduce fried food consumption, avoid potato fries, chips, nuggets, pies and pastries.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is one of the most harmful drinks associated with depression. Alcohol disrupts the chemical balance in our brain and lowers the levels of serotonin and dopamine, the happiness hormones. In addition, alcohol can damage organs such as liver, pancreas and digestive system, which can trigger depression. To reduce alcohol consumption, do not exceed the daily limit or do not drink at all.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is another drink associated with depression. Caffeine may give a short-term energy and alertness feeling, but it impairs sleep quality and increases anxiety in the long run. In addition, caffeine lowers the levels of serotonin and dopamine, the happiness hormones. To reduce caffeine consumption, avoid coffee, tea, energy drinks and cola.
What Should Depression Patients Pay Attention to in Nutrition?
Some points that depression patients should pay attention to in nutrition are:
- Eat regularly and balanced: Depression patients should eat regularly and balanced to meet their daily nutritional needs. Do not skip main meals, do not neglect snacks, follow a varied diet plan consisting of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, legumes, whole grains and oily seeds.
- Pay attention to water consumption: Depression patients should consume enough water. Water is the basic component of the body and affects brain functions. Water deficiency can cause symptoms such as thirst, headache, fatigue, concentration disorder and depression. It is recommended to drink at least 2-2.5 liters of water a day.
- Increase omega-3 fatty acid intake: Depression patients should increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake. Omega-3 fatty acids are substances that provide communication between brain cells and prevent inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can increase the risk of depression. You can benefit from consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.
- Pay attention to probiotic intake: Depression patients should pay attention to their probiotic intake. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines. There is a strong connection between gut health and brain health. Decrease of beneficial bacteria in the intestines can increase the risk of depression. You can benefit from consuming foods containing probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, pickle, cabbage and vinegar.
Summary and Conclusion
In this blog, we told you what you need to know about nutrition against depression. You learned which foods make you happy, which ones cause depression and what depression patients should pay attention to in nutrition. Nutrition is an important factor to fight depression. The foods we eat affect the functioning of our brain, our hormones, our neurotransmitters and therefore our mood. Therefore, we need to pay attention to our eating habits to reduce the risk of depression and support treatment. Consuming foods that make you happy, avoiding foods that cause depression and eating regularly and balanced will help us fight depression.