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Nature’s Antidepressant: Foods to Eat and Not to Eat to Remain Depression-Free, Naturally

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

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Many People are Depressed

If you struggle with depression, you’re not alone. About 16.2 million adults in America (that about 6.7 percent of all adults) experienced a major depressive episode during the past year.

More women than men struggle with depression, but this condition doesn’t discriminate: It can impact anyone at any time.

Depression deserves the same support as someone suffering from any other serious illness, such as cancer. Unfortunately, any people who suffer from depression isolate themselves rather than seek help.

Depression is multifactorial. In other words, you can’t usually pin depression on any one specific condition or life event. And it looks different for everyone.

Women (who struggle with depression more often than men) oftentimes feel sadness, worthlessness, and guilt. Men may feel tired, irritable, angry, lose sleep, and become disinterested in things they were once passionate about. Many men don’t acknowledge their depression so they don’t get help.

Depression and Health Problems

Depression can occur by itself or alongside other serious illnesses, potentially contributing to or exacerbating health problems including heart disease and dementia. Some medications that physicians prescribe for these illnesses could contribute to depression symptoms.

Everyone is unique, and therefore will experience depression with specific symptoms. If you’re a man, you might feel stereotypically considered “feminine” symptoms like sadness, whereas women might get angry or irritable.

Regardless of what symptoms you experience, depression sabotages your health and well-being emotionally and physically.

Depression is Expensive

Depression also takes its toll financially: We lose $210.5 billion yearly due to serious mental illness. Along with stress and family crisis, depression ranks among the top three American workplace problems.

Depression is also the leading cause of disability among Americans aged 15 – 44. That’s a wide age range that conveys a sometimes-overlooked point: Adults struggle with depression, but so do children and adolescents. In fact, about one in seven teenagers experience depression every year.

For younger children might involve pretending to be sick or refusing to go to school, whereas older children and teens might get into trouble at school, struggle with mood imbalances including anxiety, and develop eating disorders.

If you have a child who you suspect might struggle with depression, they may not know how to express those feelings clearly. Differentiating “normal” behavior for that age — say, moodiness or aggressiveness — with depression can be challenging.

The good news is that about 80 percent of people treated for depression show improvements within four to six weeks of treatment. The bad news is that two-thirds of people with depression don’t seek help.

If you struggle with depression, please seek professional help. If you have a child or adolescent who struggles with depression, do everything you can to help them get help. Don’t dismiss these behaviors as “seeking attention” or something typical for their age range.

People Experience Depression Differently

Depression comes in many shades of gray: Mild or severe, in short or long bouts, and during certain circumstances like a mother giving birth or the seasons changing.

Every year about 16 million people experience major depressive disorder (also called major depression or clinical depression).

According to the American Psychiatric Association, people must have at least five symptoms persisting for two weeks or longer to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Among them include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt

  • Loss of energy, appetite, or interest in enjoyable activities

  • Changes in sleep habits

  • Thoughts of death and suicide

Overall, researchers find 12 types of depression, which can manifest in numerous signs and symptoms.

Most cases are highly treatable. Working with a healthcare practitioner becomes an important first step, but you also have plenty of strategies to manage depression and its symptoms.

Nature’s Antidepressants


What you eat significantly impacts your mood. That’s because the same foods that nourish your body also nourish your brain.

After all, while depression has many causes, it’s really about an unhealthy brain. A healthy diet creates a healthier brain. In one trial, 67 participants received either nutritional counseling or one-on-one social support.

After 12 weeks, the diet group experienced significantly happier moods than the social support group. (That’s not to discount social support, which can also help improve depression.)

Another study, this one with 152 people, found that a healthy diet combined with fish oil could improve mental health for people with depression. Equally important, participants sustained those improvements six months later.

Our Advanced Plan makes an ideal diet to manage depression and its symptoms. This plan contains the ideal amount of nutrients to support brain health, including:

Healthy fats. Your brain is about 60 percent fat, primarily as the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). To optimize brain health and manage depression, you’ll choose high-quality, anti-inflammatory sources of dietary fat. Those include cold-water fish, called “brain food” for a reason: seafood is rich in the fatty acids DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Other healthy fats include flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and avocado.

Our plan also includes moderate amounts of protein. Your brain requires amino acids from protein to build neurotransmitters or chemical messengers. In Happy Gut, Vincent Pedre, MD, says deficiencies in these amino acids can contribute to depression. Many foods rich in healthy fats — including cold-water fish and walnuts — are also excellent protein sources.

Nutrient-dense plant foods. Our Advanced Plan also incorporates a wide variety of low-sugar, nutrient-dense plant foods. Epidemiological evidence shows that the flavonoids in fruits and vegetables can help decrease your risk of developing depression.

Healthy food might be the most powerful antidepressant on the planet, without any side effects of medications and other invasive procedures.

7 More Natural Ways to Manage Depression

Alleviating depression sometimes requires a specialized healthcare practitioner who can incorporate the right therapy and perhaps prescription medications.

If your practitioner prescribes an antidepressant or other medication, address non-pharmaceutical alternatives. If you do opt to take one, discuss strategies to eventually taper off that medication.

Never discontinue or modify a medication or specific medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.

At the same time, you have plenty of dietary and lifestyle strategies to naturally keep depression at bay or manage this condition more effectively. These seven strategies create a solid foundation to do that.

Maintain your ideal weight. Obese people are more likely to be depressed, and vice versa, because of hormonal changes and immune system imbalances that accompany depression. Our Advanced Plan becomes ideal to manage your weight. Work with your healthcare practitioner for individualized strategies for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.

Become mindful about triggers. Pay attention to patterns where depression manifests. Do you find yourself becoming moody around certain people or sad watching certain TV shows? Caffeine can also increase depression, especially anxiety-related depression. Likewise, drinking too much alcohol can exacerbate depressive episodes. Keeping a journal and tracking your mood can be a valuable way to pinpoint when depression strikes, better understand what triggers it, and help your healthcare practitioner better understand your symptoms.

Try these natural remedies. Discuss modifying doses of these supplements and including any additional supplements to benefit your health with your healthcare practitioner. Never modify or discontinue any medications or other advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Their anti-inflammatory benefits are among the reasons clinical trials show fish oil can help manage depression.

Magnesium. Researchers speculate deficiencies in this vital, mood-enhancing mineral could contribute to most major depression and related mental health problems. That makes sense because magnesium plays a role in several neurotransmitter pathways associated with depression.

B complex. B vitamins play significant roles in brain health, and deficiencies could impair memory and other cognitive functions. Vitamin B6 is a cofactor to help make serotonin, and low levels can contribute to depression.

Curcumin. This active ingredient found in the turmeric spice provides anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and brain-protective benefits, making it ideal for depression. “Curcumin appears to be safe, well-tolerated, and efficacious among depressed patients,” researchers concluded in one meta-analysis.

Get sufficient sleep. Depression and recurrent sleep disturbances go hand-in-hand, creating a vicious cycle that further exacerbates both problems. “Without proper sleep and regeneration, the system will break down—and depressive symptoms appear,” says Matthew J. Edlund, MD. If you consistently have trouble sleeping, please discuss potential solutions with your healthcare practitioner including a sleep and mood supplement.

Reduce stress levels. Like sleep and depression, chronic stress and depression are intricately intertwined. When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to become depressed, and vice versa. (Not everyone who feels stressed will become depressed, but it can ramp up your odds.) Find strategies that help you de-stress. One eight-week study found that for adults with mild-to-moderate major depression, hatha yoga could create “statistically and clinically significant reductions in depression severity.” If yoga’s not your cup of tea, consider meditation, deep breathing, or brisk walking to alleviate stress.

Workout intelligently. Exercise might be the best antidepressant on the planet, and it’s free and completely safe. But to get the most benefits, you’ll want to implement the right exercise. Compared with moderate-intensity continuous training, HIIT can improve depression (along with other issues including cardiovascular health and fatigue) more effectively. Our MaxT3 program gives you a full-body workout in just 12 minutes a day.

Visit your chiropractor. Chiropractors can optimize spinal alignment, address pain and other factors that contribute to depression, and create a customized protocol that complements your healthcare practitioner’s recommendations. One study found that 12 visits for upper cervical chiropractic care could help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms. Another found that 11 of the 15 participants with upper cervical pain who struggled with depression “experienced marked improvement with treatment.”

To live a happy and fulfilling life, you want to keep depression at bay. These strategies can help, but don’t feel isolated if you’re doing everything correctly and yet still struggle with depression. (Again: About 6.7 percent of Americans have experienced at least one major depressive episode during any given year.)

Please discuss with your healthcare practitioner about specific strategies to address your unique health conditions or concerns. Never modify or discontinue any medications or other medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.

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