Health And Wellness

30 Superfoods To Support A Healthy Diet & Reduce Depression

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woman eating an apple

Leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to longevity and keeping your body in tip-top shape. And while removing things like sugar and processed foods from our diet can help, adding superfoods to our daily intake is a great way to boost our health.

What are superfoods?

The term was actually created for marketing purposes, but superfoods are associated with foods that are rich in nutrients, contain healthy fats or have antioxidants. Though there are no studies supporting claims of alleged "superfoods" sold by companies, certain foods do hold great benefits for our bodies and health.

Superfoods are not proven to cure illnesses, but it is true that they are natural — meaning, they are not overly processed. For example, foods like blueberries, some fish, and plant-based foods can be considered "superfoods."

Overall, it's all about quantity and balance, making sure there isn't just one food group present in your healthy diet. In fact, eating superfoods can help with chronic diseases and mental health issues, particularly depression.

RELATED: The Link Between Food And Depression (Plus: How To Eat Your Way To Feeling Better)

Depression is a major problem in our world today. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people ages 15 to 44. It affects more than 16.1 million American adults, and nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

30 Superfoods, Vitamins and Supplements That Help Treat Depression

If you'd like to treat your depression naturally, there are a number of foods, vitamins and supplements that can help reduce the effects of stress on your health, help you to sleep better, and yes, even fight depression.

Your mood can be boosted tremendously by consuming healthy foods and supplements that fight depression and contribute to a healthy body. By eating a nutrient-rich diet, you not only lift your mood but also live a happier, healthier life.

1. Legumes

Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans, are rich in B vitamins, which have a calming effect on the body and can enhance our mood and help reduce anxiety. They are also healthful boosters of both dopamine and norepinephrine, aka the "stress hormone," which are both neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters coordinate communication between neurons, which, in turn, influences every cell, tissue, and system in our body. What you eat affects the formation of these neurotransmitters, and some diet-related neurotransmitters have a significant effect on your mood, appetite, and cravings.

Dopamine, in particular, can affect the pleasure-reward center of your brain, which can have substantial effects on your mood, your happiness, and even whether or not you become addicted to drugs.

2. Quinoa

There are plenty of benefits to eating quinoia, including the nutrients, high-protein and antioxidants it contains.

But quinoia, because it's a complex carbohydrate, keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable. Keeping blood sugar from spiking reduces the chances of feeling irritable.

Quinoa also contains flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, trace nutrients that are found in fruits in vegetables. A study published in Food Chemistry found that quinoa actually contains more quercetin than foods like cranberries, which are rich in this nutrient. Another study found that quinoa has antidepressant effects.

3. Dark leafy greens

Collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and arugula all contain the nutrient folate, which helps you attain a calmer mood.

Folate is a B-vitamin necessary for converting carbohydrates to energy, and producing DNA and RNA. One study on folate found evidence of reducing the risk of depression among older women who had higher intakes of vitamin B6.

4. Yellow, orange and red fruit and vegetables

Papayas, beets, apples and red bell peppers have Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folate, all of which enhance mood, energize your body, and repair cells damaged by stress.

In an observational study, researchers concluded that there is a relationship "between depressive symptoms and vitamin deficiencies." So, adding these vitamin-rich foods to your diet can help reduce the risk of depression.

5. Celery

Celery and celery seeds have been found to help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cancer, lower LDL (bad cholesterol), reduce inflammation, and prevent age-related vision loss.

Celery also aids in the growth and development of nerve cells, creating a soothing effect for nerves.

6. Blueberries

Not only are blueberries delicious, but they are rich in anxioxidants, flavonols, vitamins, and fiber. But they also have another impressive benefit: they have been shown to reduce the genetics connected to depression.

A few studies, in particular, found that eating blueberries reduces "the genetic and biochemical drivers behind depression and suicidal tendencies associated with the disorder." In another fully controlled double-blind studywild blueberries were shown to prevent low mood and depression

RELATED: 35 Depression Quotes About What Being Depressed Really Feels Like

7. Salmon

Most people are aware that salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, also found in swordfish and tuna, which are healthy forms of fat.

But a study of 20 people with depression concluded that salmon and other omega-3 fats relieve symptoms of the disorder. The participants were all struggling with "breakthrough depression," meaning an increase in antidepressants and psychotherapy had no effect.

8. Purple potatoes

Purple potatoes contain anthocyanin antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation that contributes to bad moods. The skins of these potatoes contain iodine, the main nutrient that supports your thyroid and helps stabilize hormone levels, ultimately preventing mood swings.

9. Sweet potato

High in fiber and beta-carotene, the latter of which is converted into vitamin A, sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin B6, low levels of which are linked to depression

Sweet potatoes contain high levels of magnesium, which reduces stress and anxiety, and may also be linked to insomnia.

10. Garlic

Garlic is not only pungent in flavor, it's been used in medicine for centuries. Garlic has been linked to cancer prevention, is anti-inflammatory, has anxiodidants and lowers blood pressure, but according to this study, "Garlic extract showed significant antidepressant-like activity probably by inhibiting MAO-A and MAO-B levels, and through interaction with adrenergic, dopaminergic, serotonergic and GABAergic systems."

11. Ginger

Ginger is more than just how you cleanse your palette when eating sushi; in fact, there are numerous benefits.

The 14 unique compounds found in ginger have been shown to improve cognitive function and protect the brain against the damages of stress. In addition, animal model studies found that this superfood reduces anxiety and helps serotonin levels.

12. Avocado

Healthy fats, like avocado or avocado oil, coconut oil, or cold-pressed hemp, boost your mood and help regulate hormones. Avocado, which is a monounsaturated fat, contains omega-3s, folate, and tryptopan, helping to reduce inflammation in the brain.

13. Olive oil

A staple in Mediterranean cooking, as well as thousands of delicious dishes, olive oil fights against ADDL proteins, which are toxic to the brain and have been linked to dementia. Olive oil also contains polyphenols, linked to learning and memory.

14. Yogurt

The probiotics found in yogurt — specifically, Lactobacillus — have been linked to reducing depression.

One study concluded, "Looking at the composition of the gut microbiome before and after mice were subjected to stress, Gaultier's team found that the major change was the loss of Lactobacillus. With the loss of Lactobacillus came the onset of depression symptoms. Feeding the mice Lactobacillus with their food returned them to almost normal."

15. Bananas

A banana is a great source of tyrosine. Tyrosine is the amino acid that neurons turn into norepinephrine and dopamine.

Norepinephrine and dopamine are neurotransmitters that are important in creating our ability to be motivated, concentrate, and have a more effective memory.

16. Seaweed

Seaweed isn't just what washes up on the beach shores or what our sushi is wrapped in; seaweed is actually high in antioxidants, vitamins, and calcium. It also, however, has been shown to improve mental health.

A study of over 1,700 pregnant Japanese women concluded that "higher seaweed consumption was independently associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms during pregnancy" and "seaweed consumption may be inversely associated with the prevalence of depressive symptoms during pregnancy."

17. Beets

Beets contain the amino acid betaine, which is an antidepressant. Betaine acts as a stimulant for the production of SAM-e, which is directly related to the production of certain hormones like dopamine and serotonin.

18. Watermelon

Watermelon juice and rind are both rich with vitamins A, B6, and C. Vitamin B6 is used by the body to manufacture neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine.

It's certainly easy to put the rind into a blender and have a healthy smoothie, or juice up the pulp for a refreshing drink.

19. Mushrooms

Mushrooms contain anxioxidants, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber. Not only do they help lower blood sugar, which helps stabilize mood, but a study from the National University of Singapore links mushrooms to lessening MCI, or mild cognitive impairment, which has close ties to Alzheimer's disease.

RELATED: 10 Safe & Healthy Ways To Treat Depression Without Using Meds

20. Tulsi tea

Tulsi tea (also known as "holy basil"), is a member of the mint family. It has been shown to help regulate hormones and relieve stress, regulating cortisol levels in the body.

21. Green tea

Though herbal tea has been shown to be exceptionally healthy, due to all the anxioxidants that prevent and reduce damage caused by free radicals and toxins, green tea, in particular, has been linked to lowering the symptoms of depression.

A study focused on how green tea affected older individuals over 70, finding that those participants who consumed more green team had "lower prevalence" of depression symptoms. Another animal study found a correlation between drinking green tea and the increase of serotonin and dopamine.

22. Eggs

Eggs contain Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, and folate, all of which are great for helping depression. Eggs also contain magnesium and zinc, which are linked to reducing anxiety. In addition, eggs stabilize blood sugar levels, responsible for keeping you in a good mood.

23. Brazil nuts

Containing high levels of selenium make this nut important for mental health; however, consuming more than the daily recommended amount can cause nausea and diarrhea, so be wary. 

Selenium contains anxioxidants that keep free radicals low, boosts the immune system, and even reduces asthma symptoms. Selenium also has fatty acids good for your heart, which lower the risk of heart disease.

24. Maca root

Maca root, in the form of a raw powder, supports your adrenal glands, which regulate your body's response to stress. It contains more than 55 beneficial phytochemical nutrients that help our bodies regulate hormones, relieve the symptoms of depression, elevate mood, and increase stamina. 

Raw organic red or black maca root powder is best because the raw root is not processed over 118 degrees F, and therefore it retains the live enzymes necessary to feed the cells of the body.

25. 5-HTP

5 HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a great supplement that has been studied extensively. It's a by-product of L-trptophan, and is produced from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a shrub found in Africa.

This supplement increases serotonin levels and may help treat depression, according to this study, and has been shown to boost mood in as little as 20 minutes.

26. Turmeric

Used in food as well as medicine, turmeric has a similar effect to antidepressants. One study found that curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric, increased the amount of serotonin in mice. Another study concluded that turmeric helps the brain regulate its neurotransmitters.

27. Cinnamon

While many just see cinnamon as a spice to put in their baking, or to add to the top of their coffees, cinnamon was used as early as 2000 B.C. in Egypt as medicine.

But cinnamon regulates blood sugar, which, as we know, stabilizes mood. In addition to ingesting it, smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive performance.

28. Miso

Miso is a heart healthy food that reduces the risk of heart disease, delay type 2 diabetes, improve memory, and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even OCD.

29. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate, which is different from milk chocolate, boosts serotonin, as well as releases phenylethylamine, which increases energy in the body. In addition, dark chocolate produces endorphins that lift your mood and lower pain.

30. Seeds

Chia seeds and flaxseed both contain omega-3 fats, which treat symptoms of depression. Pumpkin seeds and squash seeds increase the amino acid tryptophan, which creates serotonin.

RELATED: 7 Surprising Things That Make Your Depression Even Worse

Nancy Addison is a certified health counselor, nutritionist, chef, and certified practitioner of Psychosomatic Therapy with the Australasian Institute of Body-Mind Analysis and Psychosomatic Therapy who has written international award-winning books on health, nutrition and cooking. For more information, visit her website, Organic Healthy Life.

Medical Disclaimer: Information provided here is for informational purposes only. The information is a result of years of practice and experience by Nancy Addison CHC, AADP. However, this information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging.

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