5 Mood-Boosting Foods for Postpartum Depression

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Let’s talk about a few key foods for women dealing with postpartum depression. These mood-boosting foods provide essential nutrients that are compromised through pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Our bodies pull on our nutritional reserves even more when faced with anxiety and depression, and these mood imbalances in turn are linked with depletion. So let’s nurture the roots of health in our bodies, prepping the ground for psychological healing.

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1. Dark Leafy Greens

Spinach, Kale, Chard

Essential nutrient: High in iron.

Benefits: Iron replenishes blood.

Pregnancy increases the blood volume, which diminishes dramatically at birth. Many postpartum women are prone to low iron levels. Chinese Medicine connects weak blood with mental disorders. Western studies also link postpartum anemia caused by iron deficiency with an increased risk of postnatal depression, not to mention fatigue, exhaustion, reduced quantity & quality of breast milk, and increased risk of UTI’s.

Try it: Find organic, preferably locally grown, dark leafy greens. Rinse your greens, chop them fine, and steam or lightly sauté them in a small bit of ghee (clarified butter) or sesame oil. Toasted sesame offers a delightful Asian flavor. Add to rice dishes, mix with paneer, or enjoy alongside your favorite protein dish.

RECIPE: Beet, Basil and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

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2. Cold Water Fish

Sea Bass, Salmon, Halibut

Essential nutrients: Rich in DHA and EPA Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EFA’s).

Benefits: Omega-3’s are essential for optimal health, especially benefiting the brain, eyes, and heart. They also prevent cancer and fight inflammation.

We cannot overstate the importance of Omega-3’s for postpartum moms. Both pregnancy and breastfeeding deplete the body of these truly essential nutrients. Omega-3 depletion is linked to postpartum depression.

Try it: Purchase high quality fish, retrieved from a sustainable source. Lightly bake it. Sprinkle with a small pinch of high quality sea salt. When you’re feeling adventurous, try fish soup. It is heavenly!

RECIPE: Coco-Curry Salmon Soup.

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3. Nuts

Walnuts, Sesame Seeds, Almonds, Pine Nuts

Essential nutrients: Many essential vitamins & minerals, antioxidants, and EFA’s.

Benefits: Prevent cancer, feed your brain, nourish your bones, let your skin glow, boost your immunity!

Walnuts are a great Omega-3 alternative for mamas avoiding fish. Ayurveda calls our finest product of digestion ojas. Ojas undergirds our immune system, vitality, and longevity. Pregnancy and birth draw on our ojas, and this fine essence continues to flow from mama to baby through the breast milk. Depleted ojas is linked with fatigue, low immunity, and mood disorders such as anxiety & depression. Almonds & walnuts are two great foods for replenishing ojas.

Try it: Soak 8-12 almonds in cool, pure water overnight. In the morning, peel them (the skins pop right off with a gentle squeeze). Chop them up and add to your breakfast porridge.

Alternatively, blend your almonds with warm water or warmed, unhomogenized whole milk. Add chai spices of your choice such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom, along with a dash of your favorite healthy sweetener.

Pine nuts & walnuts are delicious atop your salad or rice dish. Lightly toast your sesame seeds in the oven or in a dry skillet. Grind them finely in a coffee grinder (one that is reserved for nuts & spices) or a high-powered blender such as Vitamix. Sprinkle on top of any foods – sweet or savory!

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4. Seaweed

Hijiki, Arame, Kombu, Nori, and Wakame

Essential nutrients: Calcium, Fiber, Iron, Minerals – most notably Iodine.

Benefits: Iodine is critical to maintaining a healthy thyroid, an endocrine gland responsible for producing & regulating certain hormones. Calcium is calming and nourishes our bones.

Fatigue and depression are only two of the challenges associated with iodine deficiency. Fatigue is a prevalent element in postpartum depression. Seaweeds are great for lifting fatigue & boosting immunity. Korean lore says that seaweed “cleanses blood, detoxifies the body, helps the womb contract and increases breast milk.” Seaweed is an essential part of the postpartum diet for women around the globe.

Try it: Of course sushi and seaweed salad are nice options. But why not try seaweed in your soup this winter? We love herbalist Susun Weed’s recipe for immune-strengthening soup!

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5. Chicken Eggs

Essential nutrients: High in Protein & Choline.

Benefits: Choline nourishes brain function. Eggs are a complete protein.

Chicken eggs contain optimal proportions of all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for neurotransmitters, growth, and rejuvenation. Protein is essential in healing postpartum depression, as is feeding your brain. Postpartum depression wears on your nervous system and taxes your liver. Choline boosts both nerve & liver function, along with fostering healthy metabolism and better energy levels.

Try it: Oh the many ways to eat an egg! Search for eggs grown locally and fed a healthy diet. Better yet, visit the farm or homestead to see the happy hens that make your eggs. Poaching and boiling are often said to be the healthiest, though a fried or scrambled egg, or a delicious omelette here and there is totally acceptable and yummy!

Enjoy incorporating these mood-boosting foods into your regular diet and alleviate postpartum depression with increased vitality and immunity, better sleep, a well-fed brain, and a rejuvenated nervous system.

Mariana Kurko
Mari is a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine, a singer/songwriter and the creator of Mamashine. She is also a survivor of postpartum depression. Mari lives with her energetic son, her husband and various animals in Austin, TX.

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