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Healthy Foods That Treat Depression

Updated on May 15, 2012

Depression affects millions of people each year. The causes and symptoms of this mental illness can vary from person to person. Clinical depression goes beyond just feeling a bit down or blue. It can include feeling hopeless and even suicidal. While there are many different medications available to treat this mood disorder, sometimes pills alone aren't enough. Others may choose to forgo traditional medicine all together, and opt for a more natural solution.

Supplements are another option, although most agree it's better to get these key building blocks from whole foods. It would be almost impossible to overdose from eating too much of a particular food, but the same can't be said when taking their pill form. Of course if you have a food intolerance, or dietary restrictions that preclude you from eating certain things supplements might be the answer.

The Best Foods To Fight Depression

The foods we eat don't just affect our waistlines, but our mood as well. If your filling up on junk and skipping healthy foods, chances are you're missing out on some key vitamins and minerals that every brains need to function properly. Diet alone probably won't cure your depression overnight, but including these healthy foods is a step in the right direction.

Salmon is high in Omega-3
Salmon is high in Omega-3

Foods high in Omega-3

Why it helps

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid. It's described as essential because you need it to function properly, and it's not made in your body. Studies have shown it not only helps treat depression, but can benefit those suffering from bipolar disorder.

Good sources of Omega-3

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Makarel
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Dried Oregano

Beans provide Magnesium and are high in fiber
Beans provide Magnesium and are high in fiber

Foods high in Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is thought to contribute to depression, as well as other mood disorder like anxiety, ADHD and general irritability. Your body needs magnesium for many important functions like keeping bones strong, because it aides in calcium absorption. It even helps regulate blood sugar levels and keeps your immune system strong.

Good sources of Magnesium

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Dark leafy green veggies
  • Whole grains

Eggs are a great source of B-12 and protein
Eggs are a great source of B-12 and protein

Foods that provide B vitamins

Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)

B-12 has been found lacking in many that suffer from depression. This important B vitamin is water soluble, and not stored in your body. That's why it's important to include foods high in this vitamin everyday.

Good sources of B-12

  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Dairy products
  • Shellfish

Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)

B-6 enhances serotonin production, and since many doctors link low serotonin levels to depression, it makes sense to supplement your diet with foods rich in B-6.

Good sources of B-6

  • Brown rice
  • Carrots
  • Beans
  • Turkey
  • Salmon

Bananas are a healthy source of l-tryptophan
Bananas are a healthy source of l-tryptophan

Foods that countain l-tryptophan

Tryptophan is another essential amino acid, so you must get it from food. Our bodies can't make it. It's especially helpful in treating depression because l-tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Low levels of this vital amino acid also cause increases in anxiety, which often goes hand in hand with depression.

Foods that are good sources of l-tryptophan

  • Milk and diary products
  • Soy
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Bananas
  • Nuts

The Importance of Stable Blood Sugar

Unstable blood sugar can cause moodiness, and make depression worse. That's why when we eat is just as important as what we eat when treating depression. Eating smaller meals spread throughout the day is one way to keep blood sugar stable. It's also important to include more whole grains in place of things like white bread. Avoiding sugary snacks and treats is another great way to keep level blood sugars. Even though they may provide a temporary energy boost, the resulting crash can send moods further down.

What to avoid when fighting depression

Just like adding healthy options can have a positive affect on your mood, these following foods to avoid can just make you feel worse.

Empty carbs and excess sugar - Besides causing unstable blood sugar, if you are filling up on these types of foods, chances are there isn't much room left over for healthier options.That's not to say you can never enjoy a sugary snack again, but try to cut back if you indulge everyday.

Caffeine - While it can give you a temporary boost, when it wears off you will probably feel worse than before. You know the old saying, what comes up must come down. When caffeine is consumed later in the day it can also interfere with sleep. Some studies have also linked caffeine consumption with unstable blood sugars.

Alcohol - While you might feel better for a few hours, chances are you will feel a lot worse the next day. Alcohol is a depressant, so it goes without saying it's something that should be avoided when battling depression. Hangovers aren't the worst of it. Alcohol can lower levels of serotonin and nor-epinephrin in the brain. If you are taking prescription medication to treat your depression, it's usually advised not to mix them with alcohol.

The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs

If you want to learn more about beating depression without resorting to traditional prescription medications this book has a lot of valuable information.


I'm not a doctor, but I just wanted to share what has helped me. Including brain healthy foods in your diet is just part of the solution. If you are suffering from very severe depression the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. There are a lot of treatment options available, and this is just one of them. Everyone is different, and no one treatment is better than others. I personally believe anyone can benefit from including some of these healthier options in their diet.


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    • ASchwartz profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks for the comment StephenCowry. I think everyone can benefit from eating a balanced diet.

    • StephenCowry profile image


      6 years ago

      Fighting depression is a hard fight to take. But, the input you just shared are new and worth trying. Thanks!

    • ASchwartz profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks Sparrowlet. I hope it helps.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very good and informative hub! I will try your suggestions. I have bookmarked to my computer!

    • ASchwartz profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks for the comment holconrad. My son has ADHD too. He's shown a lot of improvement since we all started eating better. He's getting older too, so maybe he's just growing out of it.

    • holconrad profile image


      6 years ago from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

      Very interesting, I know that my family should eat healthier, but reading your hub got me to thinking about the effects of diet on my sons ADHD. He does get especially moody when he does not eat properly.


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