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Feeling Stressed and Depressed? Add These Superfoods to Your Diet

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Feeling stressed? Chronic and acute stress can quickly lead to depression. Use these tips to manage stress naturally before it triggers depressive episodes.

Did you know that stress can be good for you? Stress actually benefits the body by keeping you alert and motivated. Throughout history, stress is the perfect trigger to keep someone out of danger.

However, too much stress quickly leads to depression in many individuals. The presence of chronic stress is frightening and wears the body down.

Stress researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health state that while a little stress is positive, too much stress can easily trigger depression or thoughts of suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can trigger major depression in about 10 percent of cases. Even happy stressful events, like a baby’s birth or a wedding, can trigger depression in some adults.

How are Stress and Depression Connected?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the type of stress you see on a regular basis can predict whether you will feel depressed from that trigger. Chronic stress (such as caring for someone with failing health or pressures at work) and acute stress (such as job loss or the death of a relative) are more likely to trigger depression than other stressful events.

These two types of stress in particular cause the body’s stress-response mechanism to over-activate. These stress types cause elevated hormones, reduced serotonin levels, and reduced “happy” brain chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins. Low levels of these chemicals are commonly linked with increases in depression. Without the right balance of these chemicals, individuals can suffer from appetite changes, loss of sex drive, insomnia, and mood swings which trigger episodes of depression.

How to Fight Stress-Induced Depression

Chronic and acute stress can lead to depression fast. If you have a high level of daily stress, it is important to deal with these feelings before they cause more serious health problems, such as heart disease and depression. Use the following tools to prevent some of the dangerous side effects of chronic stress.


Exercise is essential in the fight against stress and depression. Exercise boosts the production of “happy” chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which boost mood. Exercise releases stress hormones and provides a safe outlet for stress, anxiety, and depression. Individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to be stressed and depressed than individuals who live more sedentary lifestyles.

Relax and Let Go

Stress builds up and if you don’t give it someplace to go, it has damaging effects on the body. Conscious relaxing is one way to deal positively with feelings of stress and depression. Yoga, a warm bath, peaceful music, massage, and simply relaxing with a book or movie can help fight stress and depression. The ability to turn off the triggers of stress and depression can go a long way toward preventing serious and dangerous side effects of stress and depression.


What you eat can make a huge difference in how stressed and depressed you feel. Without the right nutrient base, your body is not equipped to handle everyday stress or extreme stress. By adding the following foods to your diet, and avoiding foods that can make stress and depression worse, you can significantly reduce your chances of seeing stress-induced depression.

Leafy Vegetables: Dark leafy vegetables are filled with many beneficial vitamins and minerals that fight stress and depression. Leafy vegetables can help produce the neurotransmitters that fight depression. A study from 2012 published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that individuals who are the most folate (present in leafy greens), had a much lower risk of developing depression.

Fermented Foods: An imbalance of bacteria in the intestines has been shown in multiple studies to negatively affect brain patterns and increase the risk for mood disorders and depression.

A 2013 study published in the journal Gastroenterology found that women who ate yogurt with beneficial bacteria had improved brain function over women who did not consume any added probiotics. Women who did not eat probiotics had stronger mood swings and reduced cognitive function overall. Other studies have linked bacterial imbalances with ADHD, depression, and numerous other brain disorders.

Dark chocolate: Everyone knows chocolate is awesome, but you may not realize that it can fight stress and depression. After eating chocolate, the brain creates a chemical called, anandamide, which blocks feelings of depression and pain temporarily.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that when study participants drank a chocolate drink with about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily, they reported feeling calmer and less stressed throughout the day.

Turkey: Turkey contains tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Strangely, when individuals with aggression or irritability consume tryptophan, they become much more agreeable. Seeds: Seeds contain a lot of nutrients that are stress-fighters. Beans, nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds all contain healthy doses of magnesium and other nutrients that fight depression and stress.

A study from 2014 published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating two servings of pistachios reduced vascular constriction during times of stress, preventing some stress-related heart problems.

Salmon and Other Fatty Fish: Salmon and other fish that contain high levels of omega-3 fats have a positive effect on stress and depression.

A study published in Brain Behavior and Immunity in 2011 found that when students took omega-3 supplements, their anxiety levels dropped by about 20 percent. Other studies have found similar beneficial results when the fats are consumed by individuals with depression.

Herbs: A few herbs have been linked with improvements in feelings of stress and depression. Three herbs in particular are of note: ginkgo biloba, rhodiola rosea , and St. John’s wort. Studies indicate that these herbs can be just as effective as antidepressants in individuals with mild to moderate depression. These herbs are easy to purchase over-the-counter and can be taken in supplement or tea form. Consult with a doctor before adding herbs to your daily intake if you are currently on any medications or are pregnant.

Foods that Fight Stress-Induced Depression
  • Leafy greens
  • Turkey
  • Fermented foods
  • Pistachios
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Salmon
  • Blueberries
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • St. John’s wort
  • Rhodiola rosea

Conversely, there are certain foods that can make stress and depression worse. For optimal stress-fighting benefits, avoid these foods as a general rule.

Sugar: Sugar is good for quick energy, but bad for regulating stress and depression. Sugar leads to mood swings, which can be serious if depression and chronic stress are already present. Sugar promotes inflammation in the brain and reduces the activity of BDNF, which are typically low in patients with depression and extreme stress.

Gluten: Gluten is not always bad, but most Americans eat far too much of it. Wheat, in particular, has been linked with feelings of depression and other medical disorders. Researchers theorize that gluten consumption suppresses the production of serotonin.

Processed Foods: Processed foods provide quick energy, but few sustaining nutrients. A lack of nutrients causes problems everywhere, but particularly in mood and stress. Avoid junk food and synthetic ingredients as much as possible, particularly during times of stress.

Foods that Can Make Depression Worse
  • Junk food
  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Hydrogenated oils


Sunlight is necessary for not only mood regulation, but also the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Insomnia is often a side effect of stress and depression, and sun exposure is one of the most effective natural cures for insomnia. Exposure to sunlight when the sun is rising and setting regulates sleep hormones to fight insomnia.

Sunlight not only regulates the sleep-wake cycle and improves the immune system, but a study from 2006 found that elderly patients with low vitamin D levels were 11 times more likely to be depressed.


Sleep is essential for fighting stress and depression. Not only does sleep provide rest and energy to face problems as they arise during the day, but studies indicate that the brain can actually heal and solve problems while it is resting during sleep. This makes sleep extremely important and necessary for fighting stress and depression. Ideally, adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

Prevent Stress-Related Depression

It is possible to prevent stress-related depression naturally. You don’t have to take medication to relax and prevent depression. The above steps can help you release stress and mild to moderate depression before it becomes a serious health risk. For best results, use all of the above methods to take care of stress in a safe way to prevent serious health risks down the road.





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