5% of the world’s population is suffering from depression, per data from the World Health Organisation. Characterized by persistent sadness that causes much emotional suffering and a poor quality of life, depression is a serious global crisis that needs to be addressed.
While there are therapies that can help to address this crisis, such as antidepressants and talk therapy, lifestyle changes have also been found to be effective. Besides, regular exercise, paying close attention to a healthy diet may help lower our risk of depression. In fact, incorporating more eggs into your diet may be the first step of this journey.
Eggs for depression?
According to a study published earlier this year, eating eggs may reduce one’s risk for depression by 38%.
The study, published in BMC Psychiatry, aimed to evaluate the association between egg consumption and depression symptoms in 8,000 elderly Chinese participants. After a six-year follow-up, the researchers found a strong association between egg consumption and a lower risk of depressive symptoms in the Chinese elderly, with each additional egg eaten, causing a 4% drop in the risk of depressive symptoms.
How do eggs improve mental health?
So, what makes eggs in particular an antidote to depression? Well, it’s all in its nutritional makeup as eggs contain tryptophan, choline, carotenoids, and vitamin D.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in eggs, and research has indicated that it may help improve mental health. This is due to it being a precursor of serotonin, the brain chemical known as a “feel good” hormone due to its impact on mood and depression.
According to one study, those consuming higher levels of tryptophan caused significantly less depression and decreased anxiety than when they consumed lower levels of tryptophan.
Besides eggs, tryptophan can also be found in canned tuna, turkey, nuts, and seeds.
Choline is a B vitamin that’s essential for many biological processes including DNA formation and healthy liver function. With mental wellness, choline is used to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays a role in the regulation of memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain functions.
According to a 2022 study, dietary choline was significantly associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms.
Aside from eggs, choline can be found in salmon, chickpeas, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
Carotenoids are chemical compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. As such, they are responsible for the egg yolk’s golden color.
Carotenoids act as antioxidants in the body, providing a range of health benefits, which include improved mental health.
According to a 2022 meta-analysis that tested the relationship between carotenoid supplements and depressive symptoms, total carotenoid intake helps in reducing the risk of depressive symptoms.
The best food sources for carotenoids are brightly colored fruits and vegetables – be they yellow, orange, or red. Foods such as dark leafy greens, oranges, papaya, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, and kale.
4. Vitamin D
One large egg (60g) contains almost one-third of our daily vitamin D needs, and research has indicated that low vitamin D may trigger depressive-like symptoms. In fact, people with depression are more likely to have low vitamin D levels.
Aside from getting your daily dose of eggs, the best way to get vitamin D is to get a few minutes of sun every day – just don’t forget your sunscreen!
A feel-good egg recipe
If you’re looking to improve your mood using eggs, then enjoy this delicious and fun recipe, courtesy of the South African Poultry Association.
PUFFY OMELETTE WITH STIR-FRY
Last night’s stir-fry makes a delicious omelet filling. Using water instead of milk in the omelet will create a puffier omelet as the water turns to steam, creating a light and airy omelet.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) water
- 1 pinch fine salt
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 pinch cornstarch
- 1 cup stir fry veggies, or filling of your choice
- Sweet chilli sauce to serve
- Preheat oven to 180 °C. Have a medium-sized nonstick frying pan ready, preferably with heat-resistant handles, or you can use a double layer of aluminum foil to wrap the handles well. Grease the frying pan well with nonstick spray or butter.
- Separate the egg yolks and whites. To the yolks, add water and, use an electric beater, beating until thick and pale in color. Wash the beaters well before continuing with the egg whites.
- In a separate clean bowl beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form, add a pinch of cornstarch and continue beating until the whites are stiff but not dry. Gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites, carefully incorporating using a figure of eight movements.
- Pour the fluffy omelet mixture into a moderately hot frying pan and level the surface gently. Cook over low heat on the stove until puffy and lightly browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the frying pan to the oven and continue cooking for a further 6 – 8 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, it should be just set, don’t overcook as it will become dry and tough.
- Whilst the omelet is cooking, reheat the stir fry veggies.
- To serve, score the omelet down the center with the edge of a spatula, place the veggies on one half of the omelet and spoon over the sweet chili sauce, fold over the opening half of the omelet.
Serve immediately with extra chili sauce.
MAIN IMAGE CREDIT:Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash
Li, F., Li, X., Gu, X. et al. Egg consumption reduces the risk of depressive symptoms in the elderly: findings from a 6-year cohort study. BMC Psychiatry 23, 44 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-023-04540-2
Li, J., Kang, X., Zhang, L., Luo, J., & Zhang, D. (2022). Dietary choline is inversely associated with depressive symptoms: A cross-sectional study of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011 to 2018. Journal of Affective Disorders, 301, 23-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2022.01.013
Lindseth, G., Helland, B., & Caspers, J. (2015). The Effects of Dietary Tryptophan on Affective Disorders. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 29(2), 102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2014.11.008
Wong, S. K., Chin, K. Y., & Ima-Nirwana, S. (2018). Vitamin D and Depression: The Evidence from an Indirect Clue to Treatment Strategy. Current drug targets, 19(8), 888–897. https://doi.org/10.2174/1389450118666170913161030
Yu, Q., Xue, F., Li, Z., Li, X., Ai, L., Jin, M., Xie, M., & Yu, Y. (2022). Dietary Intake of Carotenoids and Risk of Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Antioxidants, 11(11), 2205. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox11112205