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Top foods to help fight depression

By Shameem Akthar
September 09, 2014 13:30 IST
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Your choice of food could be a better option than popping anti-depressants.

Spinach, craisin & walnut saladNot just alternative therapists, but enlightened medical practitioners too appreciate the huge connection between your mind and the food you eat.

Thoughts are neurochemicals. They are manufactured in the body, supported by several factors that are biologically intertwined.

Our lifestyle, our cultural background, our orientation towards healthy living, and even our self-esteem have much to do with our food choices.

Those who have high self-esteem tend to take better care of themselves, inviting food changes, if need be, to turn around how they feel.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Centre, shows us the link between foods, thoughts and the bliss quotient.

In the long run, your choice of food could be a better option than popping anti-depressants.

We have chosen foods that are easy to find and easy to cook and add to your diet.



Spinach deserves the top spot on your shopping list. Its nutritional value is enormous. It is rich in niacin, which is a powerful anti-depressant.

Its Vitamin K content is high enough to repair damage caused by emotional yo-yos, especially all along the digestive and the uro-genital systems, which are like emotional pin-cushions.

Spinach also contains the amino acid, tryptophan, which is essential for the creation of the mood-uplifting neuro-transmitter serotonin.

The green leafy veggie also contains many nutrients needed to repair, heal and tone our bodies from inside and prevent inflammation and other forms of stress-caused damage.

It is also rich in anti-oxidants. And unlike other dark green vegetables (such as broccoli), it is not expensive.

And importantly, it is very easy to cook.

Also read: Recipe: Spinach Tempura with Radish Dipping Sauce

 Soy beans

Soy Beans

This legume has one of the highest levels of tryptophan among food sources.

Tryptophan creates mood-elevating neuro-transmitters.

It is what makes you sleep well and deeply. It helps deal with anxiety, depression and other emotional problems that affect the nerves.

It also helps rectify fuzzy thinking and memory.

Fortunately, recipes that include soy beans are now commonplace.

You will find it as a sauce, dried beans either roasted or baked, as soy paneer or silken tofu, soy sauce, soy nuts as roasted snacks, soy chips and soy milk to name a few fun ways of finding your bliss.

Also read: Soya, so good: Yummy recipes using soya!


Basil and its seeds


One of nature’s wonders, it is important in healing herbal traditions around the world.

Basil has the double quality of both lifting your mood and calming it.

It contains a large bouquet of rich nutrients like manganese, folates, magnesium (anti-depressant), calcium (affects sleep patterns) and several vitamins vital for mood and de-stressing (like vitamin C).

It also contains the healing vitamin K, anti-oxidants that repair damage from stress, and iron (that can help fight fatigue and tiredness often associated with depression).

Basil seeds were used in traditional ethnic recipes, and are now finding takers amongst health freaks who find they can bulk up the digestive tract in a positive way, fight cholesterol and are loaded with the nutrients mentioned above.

Basil teas, soups, pasta, garnish for your salads – adding basil to your food has never been easier and livelier.

Also read: Recipe: Speedy, simple tomato-basil pasta




Maybe because it is shaped like the brain, this nut was said to be good for enhanced memory power, mood, and brain health.

Scientific studies of the nut show that all of this is quite true.

It is one of the richest sources of omega 3 fats that are super nutrients, especially for the brain, a whole clutch of vitamin Bs (referred to as the happy vitamin), anti-oxidants, iron etc.

Walnut appears to affect other systems that are intimately connected to our moods – like the uro-genital system, the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, and of course, the nervous system.

The rich nutrients help fight inner inflammation and damage caused by stress.

It also helps the body cope from earlier emotional disasters as well as prevent future episodes.




In every mood-elevator list, one food item is constantly and consistently repeated: oatmeal.

Oatmeal is seen as a superfood.

It contains nutrients that help form serotonin – the neurotransmitter that keeps you calm and content. Its nutrients provide you with enough power to fight fatigue, which is often accompanied by depression.

It fights inflammation inside (as well as outside, which is why it is seen as a super skin toner and healer).

It also strengthens the cardiovascular system which is severely affected by mood yo-yos and helps stabilise blood sugar levels (their swings can also affect mood severely).

Oatmeal is easily cooked. What better way to start your morning than with a food that will keep you emotionally stable and blissed through the rest of the day!

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Shameem Akthar