Foods That Help Fight Depression

The role of food in depression has been the subject of many studies.

Feeling Down? It Might be Your Diet.

There is a link between food and depression. While there is no specific food that can prevent or treat depression, a healthy diet may help boost your mood. If you feel depressed, talk to your doctor. Also remember no food is a substitute for prescribed medication. That said, good nutrition helps keep you feeling your best. Nutrients in foods support the body's growth, wellness, and repair. Without vitamins, mineral, carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, our bodies cannot work at their full capacity.

Foods that help with depression are high in tryptophan.


Turkey contains tryptophan, which is a brain chemical that has a role in the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is believed to influence our moods. Other than turkey, good sources of tryptophan include chicken, tuna, soybeans, bananas, dried prunes, oats, bread, peanuts, milk, cheese, and even chocolate. High tryptophan foods may be good foods to help fight depression.

Selenium is an important antioxidant mineral in foods that fight depression like Brazil nuts.

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are full of selenium, which can have mood-enhancing effects. This mineral also helps the body maintain a healthy antioxidant balance for overall health and well-being. Eat Brazil nuts in moderation; the levels of selenium in them are so high, eating too many can cause you to exceed the recommended daily allowance, leading to side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and other problems. Other foods that contain selenium include walnuts, sunflower seeds, brown rice, poultry, and seafood. Eat a modest amount of selenium-rich foods to help combat depression.

Antioxidant-rich carrots are an example of one of the most helpful foods for depression.


Carrots get their orange color from the nutrient beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of antioxidant carotenoids were less likely to have symptoms of depression. Carotenoids occur naturally in bright red, yellow, and orange pigments in fruits and vegetables. Pumpkin, cantaloupe, broccoli, cantaloupe, collards, peaches, spinach, and sweet potatoes also contain beta-carotene.

Eat vitamin B12-rich foods to help depression and anxiety.

Clams and Mussels

Vitamin B12 helps keep the blood and nerve cells of the body healthy. People who have higher total intakes of vitamin B12 from foods were found less likely to have depression. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in foods of animal origin such as shellfish (like clams and mussels), fish, lean beef, and lamb. Other sources of vitamin B12 include poultry, milk, eggs, and some pre-prepared foods like fortified breakfast cereals. Shellfish, beef and other foods of animal origins should be fresh and prepared (cooked) appropriately to avoid some food-related diseases.

Many people rely on coffee and caffeine-containing foods to fight fatigue and depression.


Many people use caffeine as a pick-me-up, but it may be more than that. Coffee my boost energy and mood as well as lower one's risk of depression. The antioxidants in coffee may be the reason behind the decreased depression risk. The long-term effects of caffeine on depression are unknown. Keep in mind that caffeine is not the best choice for everyone. If you have postpartum depression, panic disorder, insomnia, heartburn, palpitations, or headaches, caffeine could worsen these conditions.

Foods that help battle depression includes folate-rich leafy greens.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens have folate (also called vitamin B9), a nutrient the body's cells need to stay healthy. Low levels of folate can result in anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, insomnia, confusion, and depression. It is also believed that folate may make antidepressant medications more effective. Leafy greens are therefore among the best foods to help manage depression. Folate is found naturally in foods, whereas folic acid is a synthetic version found in supplements. Other than dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, folate can be found in lentils, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, nuts, beans, peas, fruit and fruit juices (especially oranges and orange juice). Folic acid is also added to many grain products such as cereals, pasta, and rice.

In studies on depression and food, low intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depressed mood.


Fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in cognitive and behavioral functioning. Low levels of these omega-3s can play a role in the development of depression. Moderate consumption of foods that contain omega-3s can help reduce the risk of a depressed mood. Salmon also reduces inflammation and overall risk of heart disease. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as cod, haddock, and halibut, as well as nut oils and algae. A diet rich in tuna and other game fish like marlin or sailfish may contain mercury so only modest or small amounts of such fish are recommended.

Food that helps battle depression includes vitamin D-fortified dairy and non-dairy milk and enriched cereal and juices.


Low levels of vitamin D may cause you to feel depressed. It's thought that vitamin D increases the amount of monoamines (a type of neurotransmitter; serotonin is one example) in your brain, which can have an effect on your mood. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but you can supplement that with some good dietary choices including fortified dairy and non-dairy milk, enriched cereal and juices, fatty fish, and egg yolk.

Berries are foods that reduce anxiety and depression.


What food helps depression? Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are helpful in alleviating depression and mood disorders. People who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to have lower rates of these conditions. Berries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants that fight free radicals - molecules produced in the body that contribute to cell damage, aging, and dysfunction. The damage caused by free radicals is called 'oxidative stress'. Foods rich in antioxidants may reduce the effects of oxidative stress on mental health. Berries also contain vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce stress. Supplements don't have the same effect on mood as food-based sources of antioxidants do. Including berries as part of a healthy diet can help combat free radical damage.

Alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of depression so it’s best to avoid it if you have a low mood.

Alcohol and Depression

Many people drink alcohol to forget their worries, but they may be causing themselves to feel more depressed. Heavy drinking can make depression symptoms worse over time because alcohol makes your brain less active and may damage the liver. Studies have shown a link between alcohol use disorders and depression. Alcohol itself is a depressant, which means that it reduces excitability and stimulation. Just one drink may cause you to feel down. In addition, alcohol use can reduce the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Foods that cause depression are often high in simple carbohydrates and added sugars.

Junk Food and Depression

It's called junk food for a reason. Foods in this category are usually high in sugar, fat, and simple carbohydrates, and they usually lack much in the way of nutritional value. People who eat foods higher on the glycemic index (foods with simple carbohydrates and added sugars) tended to have greater risk of depression. Higher rates of depression are also associated with eating fast food, sweetened beverages, and pastries. The best bet for your mood and your overall health is to eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein.



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  • "What Is Tryptophan?"
  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Selenium Fact Sheet for Consumers."
  • Indian Journal of Psychiatry: "Role of Antioxidants in Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression"
  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Consumers."
  • JAMA Internal Medicine: "Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women"
  • Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience: "Folate and Depression—a Neglected Problem"
  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Folate Fact Sheet for Health Professionals."
  • European Journal of Nutrition: "Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Intake, Fish Consumption and Mental Disorders in the SUN Cohort Study"
  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals."
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  • Alcohol Research: Current Reviews: "Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders."
  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "High Glycemic Index Diet as a Risk Factor for Depression: Analyses From the Women's Health Initiative"
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