Do Cashew Nuts Work as Natural Antidepressants?

Cashew nuts boast several health benefits. But their ability to help alleviate depression symptoms is seldom talked about.

While most people understand the link between nutritional inadequacy and physical illness, very few realize the connection between nutritional deficiencies and mental health problems.

Depression is considered a purely emotional state triggered by the bio-chemical processes of the brain, but nutrition plays a key role in the occurrence, longevity and severity of depression, according to a 2008 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers have found that people suffering from depression and mood disorders are deficient in not just one but several nutrients.

Addressing nutritional deficiencies can be an important part of a multifaceted treatment plan developed in consultation with a doctor.

Cashews are rich in multiple ingredients that may play a role in providing relief to patients with depression.

1. Tryptophan

Tryptophan is a dietary amino acid that acts as a precursor to certain substances in the body necessary for proper functioning.

This simply means that tryptophan undergoes chemical processes in the body that results in the production of these substances, which include serotonin and niacin.

Serotonin is the body’s “happiness hormone”. Tryptophan coverts to a chemical called 5-HTP, which in turn converts to serotonin. Healthy amounts of serotonin in the body can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is an organic compound found in the body that may also help reduce depression symptoms.

While more research is warranted in this area, anecdotal evidence of the benefits of niacin medication and supplements abound.

An earlier study also provides evidence of the impact of tryptophan on mood and depression symptoms.

A lowering of tryptophan in non-depressed subjects resulted in mood swings, and caused a recurrence of depressive symptoms in patients who had previously responded positively to antidepressants, according to a 2001 article published in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

2. Magnesium

Cashews are also a rich source of magnesium, considered by many to be a key nutritional component in depression.

Higher magnesium intake in patients was associated with reduced depression symptoms and vice versa, according to a 2009 study published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Similarly, a 2006 study published in Medical Hypotheses found that magnesium deficiency may aggravate depressive symptoms and a consumption of the same is a highly recommended nutritional measure to treat depression and other related mental health problems.

One ounce of cashew nuts contains 82.8 mg of magnesium, which is a significant amount if consuming cashews regularly.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are crucial to health, but the body does not produce them. These important fatty acids must be derived entirely from one’s diet. Cashew nuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in central nervous system functioning, and may have a crucial role to play in the incidence and management of clinical depression.

People with high levels of clinical depression reported a significantly lower amount of fatty acids in their bodies, according to a 2003 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced symptoms in adult and child patients of recurrent clinical depression, according to a 2009 study published in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics.

In depressed patients, the central nervous system produces inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. These cytokines exacerbate the symptoms of depression, according to a 2003 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the activity of these cytokines that promote the severity of depression, according to a 2004 study published in Lipids in Health and Disease.

These findings shed light on the possible beneficial effects of cashew nuts in alleviating depression.


Therefore, consult your doctor before you make cashew nuts a part of your regular diet.


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