Mood Food: How to fight depression naturally with nutrition

Don’t feel good? In this modern age of food, it’s possible to feel depressed without any real reason. Our food choices may lack the right nutrients we need to combat stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are simple things we can do to help ourselves feel better.

Around 40 million people in the US suffer from depression, and recent research suggests that nutrition can help to alleviate the symptoms that accompany depression. Depression can be caused by a combination of environmental, biological, and genetic factors. Nutrition is known to affect these factors, but the exact mechanism by which it does so is not fully understood.

Is it possible to eat your way to a better mood? Certain dietary modifications may aid in the treatment of depression.


Depression is becoming more prevalent, yet it is still poorly understood. The sufferer feels it very strongly, yet it is frequently unnoticeable to the rest of the world.

Worst of all, it’s been studied ad nauseam and remains unconquerable for far too many individuals.

That sensation is familiar to me.

I’ve battled depression a few times in my life, the most recent being a few years ago.

I tried everything throughout my “low” times.

Waiting it out (which I do not advise). Theraputic treatment (valuable, but by no means a quick fix). Antidepressants (essential in my rehabilitation but not a cure-all, as they’re often depicted in the media).

I’m still on the lookout for the holy grail.

Complex, complex, and obstinate When it comes down to it, here’s the bottom line: depression stinks. You already know that if you’ve ever gone through it on any level.

But, just when I thought I’d tried everything, I came across what may be the greatest thing I’ve ever done to feel better during my most recent episode.

I began boxing.

The strenuous physical activity was a welcome respite. Boxing demands your undivided focus. When you’re focused on avoiding having your lights knocked out, you can’t think about anything else — least of all the subtleties of your emotions.

I continued to pour more of myself into it. I even changed my diet to assist the boxing, and my performance increased as a result.

Then I wondered why I should stop there. What if improving my diet might improve my mental health as well as my physical health?

As a result, I began to investigate.

I’m not the only one with this problem.

You’re also not alone if you’ve battled with depression.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 120 million people globally, making it the largest cause of disability.

The issue is much more severe in North America. Although statistics vary, most data sources indicate that at least 6% of people in the United States are depressed, with one in ten using antidepressants.

However, not everyone expresses their hidden sorrow. As a result, depression may impact a larger number of individuals than we know.

And depression isn’t simply a game of the mind. It leaves its imprint on our bodies.

The difficulties of high school seniors with depression were documented in a recent research.

  • The percentage of those who couldn’t sleep was 23%.
  • Sixty-six percent had trouble remembering things.
  • Thirty percent said they were overwhelmed.

Others were disoriented, ate too much or too little, or felt as if they were nearly drowning – out of breath and screaming for oxygen.

Even if they don’t label themselves “depressed” or seek therapy from a doctor, their bodies give testimony.

Millennials significantly outnumber Generation Xers in terms of depressed symptoms, despite the fact that the downer was allegedly created by Generation Xers in the 1980s and perfected by grunge in the 1990s.

Depression is not just unpleasant; it’s also annoyingly, mockingly ironic: it’s one of the most prevalent illnesses, yet it’s famously difficult to cure.

Nonresponders make up around a third of those being treated for clinical depression. They take medication after drug but are unable to get comfort. Another third is somewhat better, but not fantastic.

You already feel terrible if you’re sad. You also get the impression that things aren’t going to get much better.


Major depression is not the same as a regular bad mood.

Everyone has a terrible day, or a series of bad days.

Major depression is distinct from other types of depression. It’s as though the rainbow had run out of colors. The air is depleted of oxygen.

Everything is simply… more difficult.

It’s like slogging through thick tar to get through a day. It’s as if your brain is full with old rusted gears that hardly move when you attempt to think or recall anything.

Your body is sluggish. achy – maybe not very sore, but uncomfortable in unusual areas

You’re feeling hopeless, guilty, unworthy, and/or powerless. Any remaining energy is spent on being angry or weeping.

Even the things you used to like are no longer fascinating or enjoyable.

Your hunger is messed up. Perhaps you’re starving to death. Alternatively, chewing (or worrying about impending hunger) seems to be too difficult.

In severe situations, all you can do is think. What is the purpose of this? You may even consider methods to just cease doing anything.

Depression stinks, as I already said.

As do the adverse effects of many of the antidepressant medicines. The medicines don’t work for a lot of individuals. They may even make some people feel worse.

Is there a way out?

Is it true that good nutrition may help you feel better?


Mental illnesses are complicated. The brain is the same way. The foods we consume, as well as the ways our bodies interact with those meals, are all changing.

We’re still in the early stages of understanding out how the brain functions and how nutrition may help with brain health.

Nonetheless, there are some encouraging prospects.

How eating well may help with mental health

Your mind is voracious. It requires a lot of energy to function correctly and produce neurotransmitters, which are molecules that carry messages via the nervous system.

Your brain won’t receive what it needs if you don’t give it enough energy or the appropriate nutrition. According to one research, consuming a lot of nutrient-poor processed foods may increase your risk of getting sad by as much as 60%.

According to other studies, nutritional shortages often resemble mental health issues.

Here are some of the ways that a balanced diet may help your brain.

Nutrition may help to reduce inflammation.

Chronic inflammation occurs when our bodies activate an immune response and then fail to turn it off. The resultant damage and chemical stew has been connected to a variety of health issues, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

Proinflammatory cytokines – inflammation indicators — may interact with other proteins in the brain, encouraging alterations that lead to depressive disorder, according to one hypothesis.

Nutrition may help you reclaim your intestinal health.

Your gastrointestinal system does more than just transport food from one end to the other. It’s in charge of absorbing the nutrients that your organs, including the brain, need to operate correctly, as well as preventing dangerous bacteria and other chemicals from entering (and harming) the rest of the body.

Your gut depends on healthy intestinal cells and good bacteria to perform these vital functions, which include vitamin production, mineral absorption, and food digestion.

Your brain may be in danger if your gut microbiota is out of sync, or if the issue progresses to full-blown gut permeability (a.k.a. “leaky gut”) due to irritation or inflammation.

Consider the following: Every hour, 60 liters of blood are pumped into your brain to provide oxygen, remove waste, and supply nutrients. If your blood is lacking in nutrients or carries trash that shouldn’t be there, it will interfere with your brain’s function, particularly its capacity to produce essential neurotransmitters (more about that in a moment.)

As if that weren’t bad enough, a leaky stomach may also cause additional inflammation in the body, perpetuating the cycle.

Consider the following:

The stomach, not the brain, produces the majority of serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter. Poor GI health may prevent it from being produced, resulting in less of the pleasant, joyful chemicals in your brain.

Your mitochondria are nourished by food.

You may recall from high school biology that mitochondria are our cells’ “energy producers.”

Recent research suggests that mitochondria play a critical role in brain function and cognition, and that sub-optimal mitochondria and mitochondrial illnesses may play a role in mental disorders such as depression.

We don’t have a clear understanding of what mitochondria need to function properly. We do know, however, that they need a lot of nutrition.

Neuroplasticity may be aided by proper nutrition.

The brain produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein that is critical to the central nervous system, using nutrition.

According to certain studies, BDNF may aid neuroplasticity, or the brain’s capacity to adapt, rewire, and develop. This would be particularly useful for those recovering from trauma or mental illness.

What might be feeding our minds?

Of course, our brain is a component of our body.

So everything that makes our bodies better — fresh air, sunlight, clean water, exercise, stress reduction, vitamins and minerals, enhanced circulation, and so on — will also make our brains healthier.

Some nutrients seem to be related to brain health in particular.

  • Fish, nuts, seeds, and algal oil (omega-3 fatty acids): Omega-3 fatty acids are important building blocks for brain development and function, and their potential involvement in preventing anything from ADHD to Alzheimer’s disease has been studied. Studies on depression are contradictory: Some people believe that taking these good fats (in the form of fish oil) may assist with symptoms, but we’re not sure.
  • B vitamins (meat, eggs, shellfish, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains): Deficiency in B vitamins (especially B12) has been related to depression in studies, but the reason for this is unknown. Supplementing with B12, B6, and folic acid enhanced participants’ reaction to antidepressant medication, according to a 2014 research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. However, a year later, a research published in the same journal revealed that older women who were given the supplements showed no improvement.
  • Vitamin D is needed for brain growth and function and may be found in fortified morning cereals, breads, juices, and milk. Although a recent study review found conflicting findings, deficiency in this “sunshine vitamin” has been linked to depression and other mood disorders.
  • Selenium (cod, Brazil nuts, walnuts, poultry): Selenium is an important mineral, which means we must get it via our diet. Selenium, among its many functions, collaborates with other nutrients to maintain antioxidant equilibrium in our cells. Low selenium has been linked to depression in many studies, although the mechanism is unknown. One theory is that selenium’s antioxidant properties are required for preventing or treating depression.
  • Turkey, meat, eggs, certain dairy products, and dark, leafy greens are all good sources of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor of serotonin. Low tryptophan seems to induce depressive symptoms in some individuals who have taken antidepressants, for reasons that are unknown.

It’s not as easy as simply adding them to your diet. Nutrients interact with one another in a context. We also don’t know if low nutritional levels are a cause or a result of poor brain health.

So a few drugs or “superfoods” won’t let you “biohack” your way to happiness.

It’s better to work with a trustworthy health expert like a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor educated in functional medicine if you wish to concentrate on certain nutrients and/or investigate potential shortages.

What should I do next?

Depression may be debilitating. Don’t attempt to solve all of your problems at once.

However, if you’re ready, take a modest, reasonable lifestyle change or two.

To begin, make sure you’re eating something, even if it’s just a little amount. Depression may have a negative impact on your appetite. However, without food, there are no nutrients. A brain without nutrition is an unhappy brain.

Consider one of the fundamental stages that follow.

#1: Take note of and identify

Get more conscious of what you’re currently doing and experiencing before you start making any adjustments.

Keep a basic diary of how you’re feeling today on a scale of 1 to 10, what you ate, and any symptoms you observe.

This will provide you a starting point for monitoring which meals (and other lifestyle variables) may assist or worsen your depression (bonus: writing has been proven to help in general).

#2: Consume complete foods

Make it as simple as possible for yourself.

  • Look for fresh meals that don’t need any preparation (such as fresh fruits, pre-cut vegetables, or pre-bagged salads).
  • You may have them delivered as a grocery delivery or as a healthy meal delivery service.
  • If you have a support network of friends and family, check if anybody is ready to assist you with shopping and cooking.

Check out our healthy eating success tactics for additional ideas on how to prioritize whole foods.

#3: Limit or avoid depression-inducing activities.

What can you learn from your food and emotions journal? Are there any links that you’ve noticed?

Here are a few examples:

  • Alcohol is a depressant of the nervous system. As a result, it is ineffective.
  • Caffeine is a stimulant that lifts you up and then puts you down. Anxiety and sleeplessness may also be exacerbated.
  • Sugar: It may temporarily dull or distract you from pain, but it eventually makes you feel worse emotionally and physically, particularly since it may exacerbate inflammation.
  • Processed foods: Some people have discovered that they are sensitive to preservatives included in processed foods.

Gluten has been reported to aggravate symptoms in some individuals. Make a note of anything you observe in your notebook. For a week or two, try eliminating gluten-containing meals and see what happens.

#4 Take care of your intestinal health.

Maintain the health of your gut flora and intestinal cells. Consider the following scenario:

  • Drink kombucha or eat yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles. To provide live bacteria, they must be in their natural, unpasteurized state. They may usually be found in the refrigerator area of a well-stocked supermarket or health food shop.
  • Consider taking a probiotic supplement.
  • Bone broth, a long-simmering stock prepared with chicken or cow bones, is a delicious way to start the day. Simply place the bones in a saucepan, cover with water, and cook for an extended period of time (24 hours is good). Glycine, which is found in the stock, is believed to aid in internal wound healing, particularly in the stomach.
  • Choose antibiotic- and hormone-free meat and dairy from a reputable butcher or farm, if feasible. If you can, go for organic.
  • Antibiotics, which may destroy gut flora, should be used with caution. If you must take antibiotics, replenish your gut bacteria with fermented foods and probiotics.
  • Refined sweets and wheat, which may aggravate gastrointestinal issues, should be avoided.

#5: Use care while using supplements.

If there’s one thing experts agree on, it’s that “genuine food comes first.”

We don’t know how particular nutrients function in the context of individual foods, much less how they work in the body, much alone in pill form.

It’s better to work with a doctor and a nutrition coach if you’re attempting to take supplements to treat depression. They can help you figure out which ones are appropriate for you.

Fish oil, probiotics, B-complex, and/or a decent multivitamin may be beneficial for depression, but do your research first: Choose a brand that has been shown to be beneficial for mental wellness.

Supplements aren’t all made equal. A low-quality vitamin may have an insufficient dosage or be difficult to absorb.

Keep the broader picture in mind.

When you’re depressed, that’s difficult. Because your whole world has shrunk into a small black hole.

However, try to keep your eyes on the broader picture as often as possible.

  • Get some sunshine by going outdoors. There’s a reason why darkness is linked with depression.
  • Make a request for assistance. Begin by assembling your assistance tribe. A doctor, a therapist, close supportive friends and family members, a fitness trainer, or even a pet may be included.
  • Move. Depression paralyzes you. Make every effort to counteract that force by moving anything you can, however you can.
  • Feel free to express yourself. Draw, write, speak about your emotions, and scream at the moon. Alternatively, you might shatter a punching bag, like I did. Whatever it takes to get the nasty things out. Don’t keep everything in there.

Depression is a tough condition to overcome. I know what you’re going through since I’ve been there.

Building your own personal toolbox of useful activities, on the other hand, may be very powerful. There’s no need to hurry. Simply begin to incorporate healthy habits that will benefit your body and mind.

Those little victories build up over time.

Things may become a whole lot better over time.


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Better eating, moving, and living.

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It will teach you the optimal diet, exercise, and lifestyle methods that are specific to you.


Frequently Asked Questions

What food is good for depression?

It is best to avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar and salt, as these can cause mood swings. Foods high in protein are also good for people with depression, as they help your body produce more serotonin.

What food is a natural antidepressant?

Chocolate is a natural antidepressant.

What foods help with low mood?

Some foods that may help with low mood are dark chocolate, coffee, and tea.

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Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.