While you might’ve heard the term “you are what you eat,” it’s easy to underestimate the direct connection between our food and our health — whether it’s physical or mental. And while no diet alone can replace proper counseling and healthcare, it’s still important to be mindful of your diet, and to look for a variety of foods that can benefit your body and mind.
That’s because combining a wide variety of beneficial, nutrient-dense foods into your diet can actually improve their overall effectiveness of improving depression and anxiety. Think of a team filled with talented players — each on their own can make a difference by playing a part, but combining several together can be unstoppable.
Now, let’s look at a few reasons why you should consider a daily serving of peanuts and peanut butter as a part of your team, and how they can help support your mental health.
Does Peanut Butter Cure Depression?
While we can not say that peanuts will magically cure anxiety and depression, a 2016 study of over 13,000 subjects was the first of its kind to find that nut consumption specifically could have an effect on potentially preventing depressive symptoms.1
In 2020, a different group of researchers examined the effect of legume and nut consumption in relation to depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adults ages 18-55. Their findings concluded that regular nut/legume consumption was associated with a 66% lower risk of anxiety in men.2
Looking at diet through a wider lens, a study focused on the effects of adolescent nutrition examined the findings of 56 studies. Their results showed several healthy foods, including nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish, was associated with a lower risk of depression and may improve its symptoms.3
On the flipside, their studies found that a high intake of fried foods, sugary beverages and processed meats may increase depression risk.
So what happens when you combine those beneficial foods into one diet?
Healthy Diets for Healthy Minds
A review of 26 studies on benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which itself includes all of the foods deemed beneficial in the above study (plus leafy greens and berries), showed 85% of findings supported the evidence of the diet reducing the incidence of depression. 4
(If you’d like to read more on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, check out our blog on the topic here.)
Likewise, a study of over 800 middle-aged vegetarians in the United States found a 43% lower risk of depression across the population.5
The brain-supporting power of these diets, along with others, actually helped to inspire a new diet known as the MIND. It incorporates components of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, plus the inclusion of foods that have shown evidence for benefitting the brain. And yes, peanuts are on the menu.
(Curious about how else the MIND diet can benefit you? We also have a blog on the topic here.)
It’s clear to see across these studies that peanuts and peanut butter can make important contributions in supporting your mental health, and even more so when combined with similarly nutrient-dense foods. If you’d like to get started with a few ideas, you can find plenty of great recipes right here on our website.
If you are experiencing depression or depression-like symptoms, please reach out to your healthcare provider to find out what support options are available to you. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can find help with a counselor now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Su Q, Yu B, He H, et al. Nut Consumption is Associated with Depressive Symptoms Among Chinese Adults. Depress Anxiety. 2016;33(11):1065‐1072. doi:10.1002/da.22516
- Anjom-Shoae J, Sadeghi O, Keshteli AH, Afshar H, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. Legume and nut consumption in relation to depression, anxiety and psychological distress in Iranian adults [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 12]. Eur J Nutr. 2020;10.1007/s00394-020-02197-1. doi:10.1007/s00394-020-02197-1
- Khanna P, Chattu VK, Aeri BT. Nutritional Aspects of Depression in Adolescents – A Systematic Review. Int J Prev Med. 2019;10:42. Published 2019 Apr 3. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_400_18
- Areni Altun, Helen Brown, Cassandra Szoeke, Alicia M Goodwill,
The Mediterranean dietary pattern and depression risk: A systematic review. Neurology, Psychiatry and Brain Research. Volume 33, 2019,
Pages 1-10, ISSN 0941-9500, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.npbr.2019.05.007.
- Jin Y, Kandula NR, Kanaya AM, Talegawkar SA. Vegetarian diet is inversely associated with prevalence of depression in middle-older aged South Asians in the United States [published online ahead of print, 2019 Apr 25]. Ethn Health. 2019;1‐8. doi:10.1080/13557858.2019.1606166