- Complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grain breads, cereals (oatmeal is an especially good choice), and pasta, as well as fresh fruit, and vegetables, increase serotonin levels in the brain. These higher levels of serotonin decrease anxiety and increase a feeling of calm.
- Protein. The protein in chicken, turkey, nuts, eggs, and tuna contains the amino acid tyrosine, which increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and can help you feel energized and alert. Try to eat protein several times a day, but not too close to bedtime, as the increased alertness and energy it provides may make it hard to fall asleep.
- Antioxidants. Free radicals are molecules created during normal body functioning, but they can contribute to cell damage and aging. The brain is at particular risk for free radical damage, so eating a diet high in antioxidants, which counter the effects of free radicals, can help to keep your brain functioning well. Antioxidants include beta-carotene (found in cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli, collard greens, peaches, spinach, and sweet potatoes), vitamin C (found in broccoli, grapefruit, blueberries, oranges, kiwi, peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes), and vitamin E (found in nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and vegetable oils).
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown some promise in treating depression. They are found in fatty fish (such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, and sardines), flaxseeds, dark leafy greens, and walnuts. Omega-3s can also be obtained from fish-oil capsules, which can be found in a drugstore or health-food store. In treating depression, omega-3s from fish oil can be more effective than those derived from seed and nut oil, as they enter the brain more readily.
- B vitamins. Studies have linked low levels of the B vitamins B12 and folic acid to depression. Folic acid is contained in foods such as legumes; dark green, leafy vegetables; many fruits; orange and tomato juice; asparagus; yeast; mushrooms; and organ meats.
Find out more about this book:Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse