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Cashews: A Natural Antidepressant

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One of my co-workers told me today that someone she knew told her that two handfuls a day of cashews will act on one’s brain chemistry in the very same way that antidepressant medication will; which is to say, it will allow you to feel, well, less depressed.

I was more than intrigued by this juicy tidbit of information; I was amazed, stunned, giddy and almost euphoric. For I love almost nothing better than a natural alternative to medication, any type of medication, and, although not clinically depressed myself, I do know it helps to have healthy foods around which can not only fill up one’s belly, but also increase mental health. What a boon! So I did a little research, and, voila--information is a beautiful thing.

As it turns out, cashews contain niacin and tryptophan, and, according to some, two handfuls of cashews contain a “therapeutic amount” of tryptophan, enough to alter and elevate your mood. The real measurement, apparently, is three and a half ounces of cashews, about one-half cup, which provides approximately 470 mg of tryptophan. (http://www.surfingman10.org/niacin.html)

One drawback of nuts is that they are high in fat, particularly cashews. So if you’re going for weight loss, eating these by the cartful is not healthy for you either. Everything, they say, is better in moderation though. Bearing that in mind, you may find the uplifting effects of cashews are worth the calories and will just forgo that ice cream sandwich or the beer later on.

Many health food stores sell cashew, almond and sunflower butter as well as peanut butter. While they are ridiculously expensive, they can also last much, much longer as they are quite rich and intense – this is another great way to get those tryptophan-laden cashews into your diet.

There is no inherent judgment implied here with regard to antidepressants; in fact, many people I know personally and love very much are much, much happier and more fully functional people with their prescriptions responsibly prescribed for them by doctors they trust completely. Yet having natural options is wonderful as well; we could all use a little bit of nature’s remedy every now and then.

Add a Comment7 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

cashews don't make you fat.

February 4, 2016 - 4:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

im not sure about this author.. it seems they are sold on the whole 1=2. but in other articles ive read they talked about the possible effect on SOME people and is not a replacement for real doctors in cases of true depression. and i do agree with one above comment. true diagnosed clinical depression is a bit deeper than i feel blue or irritable. i believe cashews might help elevate the mood of some people depending on their particular bio chemistry. but can not replace real medicine for those who need it.

November 9, 2015 - 5:29pm
EmpowHER Guest

I wish cashews acted like Prozac, but they don't. I've tried all kinds of antidepressants. They all have different ways of acting on the brain. Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and is the only thing so far that's made me feel "normal". I used to eat cashews by the handful and they didn't treat my depression or all the symptoms that went along with it. What we call depression is a lot more complicated than feeling low. It affects energy levels, alertness, sleep quality, intelligence, and a lot more. I wish people would research these things VERY thoroughly before proclaiming that nuts = Prozac.

December 16, 2014 - 11:12am
EmpowHER Guest

Whatever health benefits cashews may have, relieving depression because of their high tryptophan content is unlikely to be one of them.

Despite the common mythology, depression (and anxiety) isn't the result of too little brain serotonin, the neurotransmitter synthesized from tryptophan, and while antidepressants do initial increase serotonin levels this is short-lived and their longer term effect is to reduce serotonin synthesis and lower the amount in most brain regions.

So eating foods that have high levels of tryptophan won't have the same effect as taking antidepressants. If anything, it may be counter productive, though, given that about 98% of serotonin synthesis occurs in the gut, blood, blood vessels and skin, very little of the extra tryptophan (via its metabolite) will reach the brain anyway.

Exercise and omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil are likely to produce far better results in mild depression.

April 8, 2011 - 10:31pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you for being a voice of reason.

I'd like to add that if you suffer from depression (and especially if your doctor prescribed for you to take Prosac or an equivalent drug), DO NOT take this article's advice seriously as you might end up hurting yourself!

Let me put it this way:

1) Do you trust your doctor or psychiatrist, who've obtained advanced degrees in their areas of expertise and have been licensed to practice medicine?


2) Do you trust the author of this internet article, who is "a special education teacher, mother, wife and dog and cat lover... writer, a singer songwriter and housecleaner..." and whose only referenced source is an internet webpage -- http://www.surfingman10.org/ -- which doesn't exist anymore.

I certainly wouldn't go to a special education teacher to get medical advice (or to get surgery done on myself). You shouldn't either.

And if you trust the internet more than you trust your doctor or psychiatrist, why did you pay money to see one in the first place?

August 26, 2014 - 10:08am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Agreed. When an article about a health issue starts out by saying, "One of my co-workers told me today that someone she knew told her that..." there's ZERO credibility there. Having worked with many aboriginals, I completely respect the notion that something doesn't have to be "proven" by the scientific method to be true. But if cashews really ARE so awesome for depression, why is there still depression in the world. The fact is depression is far more complicated than upping serotonin levels.

December 4, 2014 - 2:57pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Yes. I would trust a lay person who has researched the powerful healing benefits of food over a doctor untrained in nutrition and feeding the science/pharma industry. Let thy food be thy medicine goes back thousands of years. Take a look at Linus Pauling' s work and prominent research biologists and nutritionists and see for yourself the powerful healing potential of foods. Yes, a handful of cashews will support mild depression, along with brahmi, omegas, and other brain foods and herbs.

September 7, 2014 - 12:29pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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