Beat the Blues: Dealing with depression naturally

Livewell: Health Insurance & Wellness Blogs | Max Bupa


Kavita Devgan

02 July 2019

‘You are what you eat’, and not many understand the connect but what we plate affects more than just our weight, waist size, energy levels, beauty, mood and prevention of illnesses. In fact, the right foods can make you a happier person, and actively help prevent depression.

First up please understand that skipping meals or not eating (for whatever reason) is a ‘really bad’ idea. It does not just make you frustrated and irritated as the newly coined term Hangry (hungry+angry) also suggests, but research is now indicating that the food we eat has a bearing on our state of mind, and may even change the way we deal with the world and the people around us. This isn’t some hocus-pocus philosophy but is backed by science so quit skipping meals. 

Secondly, eat foods containing the amino acid tryptophan (TRP) as this amino acid plays a crucial role and lot of studies show that higher serotonin leads to lowered levels to social isolation, anger, and aggression. Serotonin also amplifies levels of oxytocin - the “warm and fuzzy” hormone, released after hugging and sex. So I suggest eating a TRP rich egg breakfast or a spinach stir fry for lunch and am all for gulping milk and chomping other high TRP foods like fish, tofu, beans, cheese, seeds, and nuts too.

Thirdly score enough of these two amino acids. Tyrosine as it helps increase the production of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, the neurotransmitters that increase our energy levels and feeling of well-being. Zero in on dairy, nuts, fish, poultry, and eggs to score enough to ease out the stress knots in your soul. Ensure enough theanine, an amino acid with mind relaxing properties by sipping tea.

Fourthly if you suffer from mood swings, maybe you need more omega 3 in your diet. They act on an area of the brain which improves our mood and attitude. In fact, its deficiency is known to cause fatigue and mood swings. Get it from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna or from plant sources like walnuts, sesame, and flaxseed. 

Do you know why Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin? Well because it is literally the sunshine (happiness) vitamin. If you’re feeling blue, increasing vitamin D could actually help ward off depression. Say hello to the sun every day without fail for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. And if you are deficient, take a supplement to bring the levels up to mark.

Talking of minerals, magnesium tops the list as it is essential for production and functioning of the feel-good chemical serotonin (explained above) in our brain. That is why this mineral is also known as the anti-stress, anti-anxiety mineral. Plus it helps one sleep better. Make sure you eat any two of these - dark leafy greens, nuts (cashews and almonds), seeds (pumpkin, sesame), beans (including edamame), lentils, fish (mackerel), whole grains (brown rice), bananas, dried figs, and dark chocolate - daily.



It ranks as a happy food due to the great amount of tryptophan and tyrosine it contains. They’re both precursors to “happy” neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine! Plus it is rich in potassium, which is for nerve functions, and also contains natural sugars that are quickly released into the bloodstream, helping us cut fatigue.


An apple is an incredible mood-boosting food because this fruit along with fructose delivers a hefty dose of fiber, thus helps to keep blood sugar levels stable and the mood buoyant.


An excellent source of potassium and fiber, figs are a good source of vitamin B6 too, which is responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin; plus it also helps lower cholesterol and prevents water retention. Fresh figs are not so easily available in our country but dried figs are in abundance so snack on these instead.


You sip it slowly and calm descends! No, that’s not because it is a habit that helps but because tea contains an amino acid called thiamine that has mind relaxing properties. And if you make the cup herbal, you get the added advantage of a calm, energized mind.

Kavita Devgan is an acclaimed nutritionist. She offers practical, customized programs that deliver weight loss the right way – via habit modifications – to ensure long term results and complete wellbeing. Her clinic Smile Studio is in Greater Kailash part 1. She is also a health columnist, speaker, and author of Don’t Diet! 50 habits of Thin People and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks. 

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