Mood-Boosting Foods

Can certain foods help alleviate depression?


Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. Do any foods help ease depression?

A. There are controversial studies about which, if any, foods to eat when depressed. Some people suffering from depression, premenstrual syndrome, and seasonal affective disorder find that they crave carbohydrate-rich food such as pastas, pastry, potatoes, or candy. Carbohydrates are thought to elevate brain levels of tryptophan and serotonin, which can improve moods and relieve irritability. However, these same foods can trigger "snack attacks" and make you feel drowsy and sluggish -- effects that can make depression worse.

Other studies show that depression often improves when sugar and caffeine are removed from the diet. Some people are so sensitive to sugar that these sweet servings can put them on an emotional roller coaster.

The latest studies have shown benefits from a high intake of omega-3 oils. These are found in fish and flaxseed, which are also sources of protein. A protein-rich diet is likely to help "even out" moods by maintaining more level blood sugar.

Exercise is recognized by all health care providers as a good treatment for depression. It helps give you an overall feeling of well-being, accomplishment, and good health.

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