Everyone feels blue from time to time. Whether you are clinically depressed or just in a funk, the following foods may help to lift your mood. The foods listed below fall into 4 categories: those rich in vitamin B6, high in folic acid, omega-3s and vitamin D. All of these have been linked to how your body uses and produces seratonin, which is a contributor to well-being and happiness. Scientists are still studying the effecacy of these foods, but in my opinion it seems that sometimes just knowing that you're doing something good and proactive to help your situation can help you to feel better. In addition to a list of foods in each category, I have listed the RDA that is suggested for each vitamin if you'd like to use supplements. Please remember though that your body absorbs and uses vitamins better when they come from real foods!
It is important to note that psychotherapy and medication are the most effective means of combating depression. For all forms of depression, it is important to see a mental health professional to determine the best treatment. Please seek help if you need it! Depression is a disease and you don't just get better on your own. The advice in this article is not meant to replace the help of a medical professional.
B-6 Foods (25-100 mg/ day)
These may help if your mood is worsened by the use of hormone therapy or oral contraceptives. Asparagus, bananas, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, garlic, turmeric, watermelon.
Folate/Folic Acid (400-800 mcg/ day)
Low levels of folate are often associated with depression, and can also interfere with the effectiveness of some antidepressant drugs. Foods rich in folate include asparagus, avocado, beans, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, fortified cereals, dark leafy greends, orangeds, papaya, parsnips, pease, soybeans, tofu, turkey, wheat germ
Omega-3 (1000 mg. EPA and DHA daily)
Omega-3 deficiency is often associated with low serotonin levels. Incorporate these foods into your diet to get more omega-3s. Brazil nuts, avocados, flaxseed (be sure they are ground, your body cannot break these seeds down otherwise), salmon, sardines, chia seeds, help seeds, tuna, walnuts and fortified eggs.
Vitamin D (400 IU daily)
If your sadness seems to come on during the winter when we are exposed to less sunlight, your depression may be linked to a vitamin D deficiency. Most Americans are Vitamin D deficient. Be sure to get at least 10 minutes a day of exposure to sunlight (even if it's cloudy). Foods that provide vitamin D include cod liver oil, eggs, fortified cereals and milk, and salmon. If you take a supplement, look for D3 as this form of the vitamin is most easily used by the body.
There are also herbal supplements out there that many people use to help treat symptoms of depression. Look for St. John's Wort and Kava (which reduces anxiety). I like this tea that helps ease tension and promote relaxation with Kava. And it tastes a bit like chocolate which is a mood-lifter in itself!