Are Cashews the New Prozac?

I’ve been following the Food Matters website for years (especially since I became vegan), but I only recently watched the Food Matters documentary on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching it as soon as possible. As the name implies, the documentary focuses on the importance of consuming healthy food. Why? Because food matters, of course!

As a vegan, plant-based food enthusiast, and someone who prefers using natural remedies as often as possible, I was especially drawn to the documentary’s claim that cashews may act as a natural anti-depressant. While I haven’t yet tried this remedy for myself (because I’m blending all my cashews into plant-based cheeses or creamy sauces), it’s definitely something I’m interested in trying in combination with the medication I’m currently taking. However, I’ve battled mild depression and anxiety for years and I’ve only recently gotten my depression under control (thanks to a low dose of Prozac) so I’m not sure I’d be willing to wean myself off of the Prozac just yet. 

My Journey with Depression 

After my mom and I both survived cancer, I felt so grateful and appreciative that we both came out of it doing so well, but I also felt incredibly weepy, anxious, and fearful thinking about the future. Even though things were going well, I couldn’t help but feel a lump in my throat and in the pit of my stomach any time I thought about what the future held. I found myself tearing up and bursting into tears nearly every time my mom and I spent time together because I just couldn’t help thinking about us NOT being able to spend time together, should something awful happen to one of us. When you spend all your precious time thinking WHAT IF, it’s an awful feeling and it holds you back from enjoying the present moment. 

However, ever since I’ve started taking an anti-depressant, it has helped me to feel more in control of my feelings and emotions. I’m no longer bursting into tears in public places, but I’m still able to cry at more appropriate times (like when I’m at home watching a sad movie). And since I’m on a very low dose, I fortunately don’t notice any negative side effects. While the medication hasn’t helped to control my anxiety at all (especially my social anxiety), it has helped me to cope with the way I feel about my anxiety – if that makes sense. Instead of feeling sad, depressed, and weepy about my anxieties, I now feel more positive and in control of my anxieties and fears. 

Depending on your specific situation, you may or may not find cashews OR anti-depressants useful for treating your depression. Personally, I don’t know if there’s a one-size-fits-all treatment for anything, but it sure doesn’t hurt to experiment with medication and/or natural remedies and find what works for you. 

 

How Cashews May Reduce Depression

Cashews as an Anti-Depressant

According to Dr. Andrew Saul of Food Matters, consuming 2 cups of cashews has a similar effect to taking a therapeutic dose of Prozac – but without the potential side effects of taking a prescription medication such as Prozac. Cashews are high in tryptophan and niacin, which helps to produce feel-good hormones in the brain (or serotonin). Additionally, consuming a niacin supplement (or Vitamin B3) may also help to naturally reduce symptoms of depression. Watch a 2-minute clip regarding this claim from the Food Matters documentary here

However, Snopes disagrees with this claim and says that replacing Prozac with cashews could be dangerous since these claims do not have clinical studies to back them up. 

Should You Make the Switch?

My thoughts? Cashews are an amazing health food, so it certainly can’t hurt to consume cashews on a daily basis. Raw cashews contain healthy, good-for-you fats, and other nutritional benefits like protein, zinc, dietary fiber, magnesium, folate, and antioxidants. Aside from the anti-depressive benefits, cashews may help to lower your risk of heart disease, gallstones, certain cancers, and diabetes. Additionally, cashews help to reduce migraines, maintain good bone health, and maintain a healthy weight. 

While I don’t advise anyone to go off an anti-depressant that seems to be working, I don’t see the harm in giving this cashew remedy a try in combination with the medication you take. 

And if you’re not currently taking medication for depression, what do you have to lose? Aside from the anti-depressive benefits of cashews, cashews are an amazing health food and can be used to make delicious plant-based cheeses, milks, and cheesecake! I like buying cashews from Trader Joe’s because they seem to be priced fairly reasonably (especially compared to other stores such as Whole Foods or local co-ops). 

What do you think about using cashews or niacin (Vitamin B3) as a natural remedy for depression? Let us know your thoughts! 

For additional tips and advice on dealing with mental health issues, check out our posts about mental health mantras and smartphone apps for improving mental health. 

Alex Beane

Alex is a freelance writer who holds a BA in Professional and Creative Writing. She has a strong interest in veganism, holistic health, and emotional and physical wellbeing. When she isn’t reading and writing about health and wellness, Alex is trying new plant based recipes in the kitchen or can be found volunteering with a Minneapolis-based animal rights organization or local rabbit rescue. Find Alex on LinkedIn or view her writing portfolio.