Depression has a way of making simple everyday activities, such as eating, feel utterly unbearable. The good news is there are some easy depression meals that you can try to help you get through the bad days.
Nutrition and Depression
Depression is usually treated with medications and therapy. However, recent research in neuropsychiatry suggests that nutrition and depression are linked. An emerging branch of study called nutritional neuroscience explains that nutrition is connected to our behavior and emotions.  Contrary to the common belief that depression is strictly based on our emotions, studies show that its onset, severity, and duration may also be affected by our diet.
Essential Nutrients for Better Mood
When we feel depressed, getting out of bed feels like a burden, let alone preparing a meal. It becomes so easy to rely on instant (usually unhealthy) kinds of food. While there is no specific meal or diet proven to eliminate depression, studies show that there are certain nutrients in food that can potentially improve our mood. 
Here are some of the essential nutrients and where you can get them:
Carbohydrates, commonly called “carbs,” are essential macronutrients found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk products. Our body turns carbs into glucose which is used to give us energy. 
Quick tip: Instead of eating foods with high glycemic indexes (GI) such as doughnuts, cookies, and other sweets (probably the go-to comfort food for most of us), you can substitute them with low GI foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (vegan-friendly!) Foods with low GI don’t cause spikes in blood sugar and provide moderate but lasting effects on mood and energy level. 
Proteins are composed of amino acids, often referred to as important building blocks of life. Our body can’t make the essential amino acids, such as tryptophan, that’s why they are supplied through our diet. Tryptophan is a substance in our gut that is turned into serotonin. (Yes, the happy hormone!) 
Many of the ‘happy’ hormones and neurotransmitters are made from amino acids. It’s one of the reasons why a lack of amino acids is usually associated with low energy and motivation.  Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers, and they influence our mood, muscle movement, and heart rate. 
Quick tip: It’s actually the source of protein that makes the difference in our health, not the amount.  So, instead of processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs, you may consider adding fish, beans, and nuts to your go-to depression meals as they are healthy protein sources.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, have been studied to have a direct impact on serotonin—the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. 
In fact, according to Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, former Acting Chief of the Section of Nutritional Neurosciences at the US Government National Institutes of Health, it’s like these omega-3 fats build more serotonin factories because they enhance its production and reception. He also discovered through research that people who are fish eaters are less prone to depression. (Fish is a good source of omega-3 fats!). 
What’s more interesting is that research from London’s Hammersmith Hospital in the United Kingdom reported a case of a 21-year-old student who had been on a variety of antidepressants but still had severe depressive symptoms. After one month of being supplemented with ethyl-EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), a concentrated form of omega-3 fats, his symptoms significantly improved. 
Quick tip: Given their high omega-3 content, oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon must be present in your diet one to two times a week as they may help to fight symptoms of depression. 
B-Vitamins (Vitamin B6, B12, Folate)
Another essential nutrient involved in the production and balance of neurotransmitters is B-Vitamins. The production of serotonin is highly dependent on folate, vitamin B12, and B6. This explains why research says people with depression have 25% lower blood folate levels than normal. 
Even with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, the supplementation of folate was studied to effectively help in their recovery. In fact, there was a trial done in London wherein the patients took folate in addition to their standard medication. It was found out that the longer they took the folate, the better they felt. 
Health tip: As the old advice goes, “eat your greens.” Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, and arugula contain good amounts of folate.
Good Food, Good Mood
When we’re depressed, we tend to become ‘emotional eaters’. The Help Guide Organization defines this as using food to fill emotional needs—not the actual needs of the stomach.  We tend to reach for ‘comforting’ but unhealthy foods like sweets and junk foods, which provide immediate but temporary relief. 
Unfortunately, this cycle of emotional eating usually makes us feel worse because aside from our existing emotional issues, we also feel guilty for eating unhealthily.  In contrast, healthy food alternatives provide a long-term positive effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level. 
Good and healthy food doesn’t always have to be complicated. A simple bowl with the right nutrients can give you the much-needed ‘lift’ during the days when you don’t feel like it. Here are some easy ‘depression meals’ recipes that you can try:
1. Stir-fried kimchi with tofu
This dish may not be the most aromatic food out there, but it’s packed with good bacteria and protein studied to help boost mood and energy.
2. Greek yogurt with honey and granola
The probiotics present in yogurt are known to keep our gut healthy. The good news is they have also been studied to alleviate symptoms of depression, making this an easy and delicious way to help lift your mood.
3. Salmon salad with vinaigrette
We have previously talked about the wonders of omega-3 fatty acids, and this is one tasty way to enjoy its benefits. You may also opt to use spinach instead of lettuce to bring in more nutrients to this dish.
4. Avocado toast
It’s no secret that avocados are incredibly nutritious and yummy. There are numerous ways to eat them, but a simple avocado toast can already do wonders without requiring much effort. Aside from its benefits for emotional wellness, this easy-to-make snack is also vegan-friendly! So, if you’re on a strict plant-based diet, this guilt-free dish is for you.
5. Spaghetti with steamed mussels
This pasta dish has carbs, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. What a nutritious feast, right? To add some extra brain benefits, you may opt to use whole-wheat pasta and extra-virgin olive oil.
Bottom Line: The Best Depression Meals
The ways of coping with depression vary for each person. There is no perfect way to deal with it. These ideas for your depression meals are just some of the steps you can try to feel better—the healthier way. After all, making better food choices is vital for overall health and wellness.
Just remember to be patient with yourself and consult your trusted healthcare provider for expert advice.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.