A number of lifestyle factors can contribute to anxiety and depression, but one that’s often overlooked is what you put in your mouth. “Diet plays a huge role in depression,” says Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist and author of Vigor: 7 Days to Unlimited Energy, Focus, and Well-Being.
Do you crave sweet, salty, and fatty foods when you’re feeling blue? You’re not alone. But, says Dr. Talbot, “If we eat better foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish, we short-circuit the junk food cravings and have higher energy levels and sharper mental focus.” Should you add these good-mood foods to your diet?
A jolt of caffeine can be a pick-me-up that helps you feel more motivated. But if you have postpartum depression or panic disorder, some studies suggest that it might make your symptoms worse. Other researchers say a cup of joe can lower your risk of getting depression, though they’re not sure why.
They’re packed with folate, which your brain cells need to work well and which may help protect against depression. Food manufacturers in the U.S. add this vitamin, also known as B9, to enriched grains like pasta and rice. You can also get it from lentils, lima beans, and asparagus.
The traditional Thanksgiving bird has the protein building-block tryptophan, which your body uses to make serotonin. That’s a brain chemical that plays a key role in depression, researchers say. In fact, some antidepressant drugs work by targeting the way your brain uses serotonin. You can get the same mood-boosting effect from chicken and soybeans.