Superfoods For a Healthy Mood:
The 10 Most Effective Foods for Fighting Depression with Diet and Nutrition
BY JUSTIN FAERMAN
the most effective foods for fighting depression are rich in the raw materials your body and brain needs for optimal functioning and that it uses produce abundant neurotransmitters and hormones, which are essential ingredients for boosting your mood. photo: renee blair
Of all the ways to treat depression that exist, improving your diet in the specific ways outlined in this article and eating the special “super” foods for depression listed below is one of the most effective ways to do so. Most cases of depression can be significantly improved if not eliminated altogether by improving your diet and nutritional intake (even if you think you are eating well already!) and are oftentimes caused in whole or in part by eating low-quality foods or an imbalanced diet unknowingly. This is because in order for the brain and body to produce proper neurotransmitter and hormone levels—which are essential for you to feel happy, calm and motivated—it must be supplied with the proper nutrients, proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, ideally from whole food sources. If your brain and body don’t have the exact raw materials they need in a high-quality, whole food form, they simply will not function properly and you can easily become depressed. [1,6]
Furthermore, if you are not eating high-quality, natural/organic, whole foods as outlined throughout this article, you can also be unknowingly ingesting chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, MSG, genetically modified foods and other synthetic ingredients that have scientifically documented negative effects on mood and can absolutely cause depression, anxiety, brain fog and more.
The Roadmap to Beating Depression with Food and Diet
The point in case is that the foods that you eat and the substances that you choose to put in your body have a massive effect on your mood and on your emotional state and are often the key to reversing depression with diet. In many cases, special psycho-emotional healing practices are also needed to reverse some of the mindsets that can also contribute to depression above and beyond the foods you eat. If you want to beat depression for good, it’s ideal to work on the mind and emotions just as much as you work on the body, but this article is going to be focused on the best diet and foods for depression as this is the easiest place to start and almost always results in instantly noticeable shifts in how good you feel.
By the end of this article you will have a complete roadmap to the most important medicinal foods to include in your diet to beat depression, which you should be eating daily to make sure your body has everything it needs to produce abundant neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, dopamine, acetylcholine and more, all of which have huge affects on your mood. You’ll also learn which foods make you depressed so that you can avoid them and stop sabotaging your progress.
Not only will these special depression-fighting foods help you feel better almost instantly, but they will also help you create extraordinarily high levels of health and as you get better and prevent you from developing common sicknesses and diseases that most people face. This depression diet is actually the optimal diet for lifelong health and wellness because it supplies your body with everything that it needs to thrive on every level: mentally, emotionally, physically and more.
The Top 10 Best Foods for Depression: How to Supercharge Your Mood with What You Eat
If you are looking for a quick fix, then you’re probably going to want to start with many of the special foods for depression outlined below as these are easy wins to start boosting your mood with diet. However, for long-term success in beating depression, you’re also going to want to make some of the bigger diet and lifestyle changes outlined further into the article as well. While these foods can give you an instant mood lift, you don’t want to build your house on a shaky foundation, and so it’s important to make holistic lifestyle changes as well when fighting depression and anxiety with diet.
1. Organic, Grass-Fed Raw Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein is in many ways the ultimate mood-boosting, depression fighting food. Why? Because it is essentially the concentrated raw materials that your brain needs to produce abundant, mood-boosting neurotransmitters of all kinds: serotonin, dopamine, GABA , acetylcholine, melatonin and more. Research shows that in most people with depression, these neurotransmitter levels, along with GABA, are either low or imbalanced [1,6]. Your brain and body create neurotransmitters from amino acids and amino acids are found most abundantly in protein and organic, grass-fed raw whey protein concentrate is one of the richest sources of food-based amino acids and protein known to man.Whey protein is literally like rocket fuel for your brain and is a hugely important food for depression. What’s more is that it is phenomenally rich in four extremely important amino acids, which are powerful nutrients that fight depression: L-Tryptophan, L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylalanine and Glutamic Acid. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and Phenylalanine and Tyrosine are the precursors to dopamine and epinephrine and glutamic acid is converted in a series of chain reactions into L-Glutamate which increase levels of GABA. These four neurotransmitters are the main mood-boosting chemicals in the human body and are the holy grail for people with depression or anxiety. You want abundant, balanced levels of them all in order to supply your brain and body with the raw materials it needs to produce a positive, healthy mood and an energized yet relaxed feeling of peace and calm. Taking organic, grass-fed whey protein daily is the easiest way to accomplish this as it is one of the best foods for depression that exist. Whey protein also supplies other essential amino acids that help maintain proper hormone levels in the body, which also are extremely important for boosting mood and overcoming depression with diet.
But not all whey protein is created equal—in fact, most of the whey protein on the market is actually bad for people with depression and anxiety because it contains all kinds of synthetic sugars, flavors, additives, bulking agents and anti-clumping agents. All of these ingredients can actually cause depression and anxiety as they are not natural but synthetic and disrupt the body’s natural functioning (more on this and why you want to avoid anything synthetic later in the article). Many non-organic whey proteins also contain synthetic steroid-like chemicals added by manufacturers to help people build muscle faster but these have negative effects on mood.
And if that weren’t enough, non-organic, non-grass-fed whey protein is almost always from cows that are factory farmed, which means they are fed a diet of pesticide-laden, genetically modified food, injected with abundant synthetic antibiotics and growth hormones and are kept in small cages where they often develop chronic diseases. You better believe that some of those pesticides, antibiotics and hormones get passed into the protein and therefore onto you, and as you may have guessed, they don’t have positive effects on your mood—quite the opposite: they actually sabotage the depression diet. Furthermore, cows not fed their natural food, which is grass, produce lower quality milk with lower quality protein as the cows aren’t getting the raw materials they need to produce high-quality milk—which can only be found in grasses!
If you are looking for foods that help fight depression, what you are after is 100% pure, organic, grass-fed whey protein concentrate with NOTHING ELSE ADDED—just like nature intended. Organic means no antibiotics or growth hormones can be used and that the feed must be organic and free from any chemicals or pesticides as well. Grass-fed means the cows are raised on open pasture on organic grass, just as nature intended, with the highest-quality milk possible, which produces nutrient- and amino-acid-rich whey protein. When consumed in this form, whey protein is a powerful antidepressant food.
Furthermore, organic, grass-fed whey protein concentrate is amazingly delicious. Seriously it’s like eating healthy candy that makes you feel great. If you are treating depression with food, this should be your first line of defense.
Where to Get it:
Raw, Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein
An ultra-high quality, raw, organic grass-fed whey protein that is low-temperature processed to maintain protein quality and nutrient absorbability. From pasture-raised, grass-fed, happy and humanely treated cows. Absolutely delicious and mixes easily in water and smoothies.
Note: If you are allergic to milk products then you’ll want to try a similar quality, non-milk based protein powders like egg white protein or a vegan plant-based protein powder.
2. Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon Fish Oil
If you have been searching for foods that fight depression, you have probably come across people recommending fish oil. And with good reason: there is an extraordinary amount of research showing that omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA, which are abundant in fish oil, are important for boosting mood and fighting depression. Brain tissues in particular are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, so a lack of adequate supply in your diet can stress your brain out.
According to Dr. Douglas London, research associate in psychiatry at the Psychopharmacological Research Laboratory of McLean Hospital and medical faculty at Harvard Medical School, “The human brain is 60% fat, and omega-3 fatty acids are the fatty acid of choice for the structure of certain parts of brain cell membranes and brain intercellular nerve connections.”He goes on to say that “Lack of dietary omega-3 forces the brain cells to utilize other fatty acids on hand, resulting in cells constructed with inferior building material,” and “Lack of available omega-3s affects brain function and is associated with cognitive and emotional disorders. There is growing evidence that a significant proportion of the U.S. population is at risk for omega-3 fatty acid deficiency.”
But the research has shown that things go even further than that though when it comes to fighting depression: studies have shown that a lack of DHA has far-reaching hormonal effects, increasing corticotropin-releasing hormone, a hormone that moderates and controls emotionality. This can, in turn, contribute to hyperactivity within the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, an important neuroendocrine system that regulates mood, aggression and “fight-or-flight” responses associated with anxiety and depression. 
However, omega-3 fatty acids are hard to get from your diet alone if you don’t supplement with fish oil, so most people—even those eating fish regularly—are deficient.
Taking a wild caught, unrefined fish oil supplement is an easy win for people with depression. Bar none this is one of the most powerful foods for depression that exists—that is when you are taking it as nature intended. Let me explain…
The Sad Truth About Most Fish Oils
Just like whey protein, not all fish oils are created equal, and in fact, most of the ones available on the market today shouldn’t be put in your body because they are so highly processed. It’s interesting that so many scientific studies have shown fish oil is a powerful depression-fighting food, and yet so many people taking it don’t seem to notice any benefit. Here’s why: the fish oil used in the studies is ultra-high quality, unprocessed fish oil like we are recommending here in this article and upwards of 95% of fish oils available in stores and online are literally processed beyond all recognition and not fit for human consumption and can actually make depression worse.
The sad truth is that most of the fish oil on the market is supplied by one or two major suppliers who molecularly distill and highly refine their oils. They tout molecular distillation as a benefit as it supposedly removes heavy metals, but the truth is it destroys the omega-3 oils with high heat and strips them of all their other necessary synergistic nutrients and co-factors that are extremely important for fighting depression.
You see, omega-3 oils (and fish oil in particular) are polyunsaturated oils, which means they are highly unstable and sensitive to heat. Heat literally destroys them on a molecular level and causes them to denature and create inflammation in the body, which contributes to brain fog and depression. 
When fish oils go through the molecular distillation process they are heated to nearly 200°C (390 °F), which completely destroys the omega-3 oils and makes them virtually unusable by the body. Second, in this molecular distillation process, they also strip away all the other naturally occurring synergistic nutrients like vitamin A and D, which are extremely important nutrients for depression and boosting mood. So basically what you are left with is a denatured, highly-refined fish oil that has almost no positive effect on mood because the omega-3 oils have been partially or fully denatured and are instead creating inflammation in the body.It’s funny really—we know processed foods are bad for our health and yet somehow processing fish oils is not supposed to have any effect. Hardly. It makes a world of difference in your mood just like eating a diet of organic, whole foods makes a world of difference over eating McDonald’s. It’s night and day, and if you are looking for the most potent foods for depression, you need to seek out a fish oil that meets the criteria below.
The Solution: Whole, Unrefined, Wild Caught Fish Oils
The solution to this problem is fairly simple: only supplement with fish oil that is 100% natural, wild-caught and unrefined—that doesn’t use harsh processing methods like molecular distillation. To my knowledge (and I have spent years searching) there are only a handful of companies that offer truly pure fish oils with zero processing (other than cold-pressing the fish to separate the oils out). The best, in our opinion is North American Herb & Spice Co.
North American Herb & Spice offer a wild-caught, cold-pressed Alaskan salmon oil that is hands down one of the ultimate foods for depression on the planet and is an important part of any depression diet. It is completely unrefined meaning that it is never molecularly distilled and has all its synergistic nutrients left fully intact. This fish oil is an extraordinarily rich source of DHA and EPA along with fellow mood-boosting nutrients Vitamins A and D, which are naturally occurring in most fish oils before they undergo processing. Salmon oil has one other benefit as well for anyone: it is rich in Astaxanthin—an extremely powerful antioxidant that gives salmon its beautiful orange color and that has a number of incredible health benefits of its own and has been shown in some studies to help fight depression and boost mood in animal models as well [4,5].
If you are worried about heavy metals and PCBs, don’t be because the salmon are harvested from some of the cleanest waters in the world and both of these products are independently lab tested and shown to greatly exceed international standards for acceptable levels of such things, which is what you are looking for when fighting depression with diet.
If you want the maximum medicinal, mood-boosting, depression-fighting effect from these foods, you’ll probably want to go with the straight fish oil offered by North American Herb & Spice (you can find it here: Polar Power Alaskan Salmon Oil). It tastes like fresh salmon and it’s very mild.
But if you really don’t like the taste of the oil then the capsules they offer are equally as good—you’ll just be getting a slightly lower dose of fish oil per serving. Either way you take them, these ultra-pure, unrefined fish oils are powerful foods for depression and are an essential part of an effective diet for depression.
Where to Get it:
Polar Power Wild Cold-Pressed Alaskan Salmon Oil Capsules
Hands down the worlds freshest, purest, most potent, best-tasting fish oil and source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Cold-pressed from fresh, wild Alaskan Salmon and free of all heavy metals, preservatives and adulterants. Exceptionally rich in naturally occurring Vitamins A and D and Astaxanthin, this a powerful food for depression and boosting overall health.
3. Hydrilla Verticillata
Beyond protein and omega-3 fatty acids, the third most important factor in overcoming depression with food and diet is getting the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. Vitamins and minerals are absolutely essential for the abundant production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters throughout the brain and body. Along with the amino acids found in high-quality proteins like whey, vitamins and minerals are the other essential ingredients your body needs to thrive and keep you happy, calm and depression free in the long term. And there are few better whole food sources of vitamins and minerals than Hydrilla Verticillata.
This wild-growing aquatic plant is literally like nature’s multivitamin—its extraordinarily rich in mood- and energy-boosting B-vitamins like Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B1, which all play hugely important roles in the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system and in particular overcoming anxiety and depression with food by producing abundant neurotransmitters throughout the body. Hydrilla is also extremely rich in calcium (it has more calcium than any other food on the planet!) which is calming and soothing to the nervous system as well. It’s also rich in other important and hard-to-get mood-boosting, depression-fighting minerals like magnesium, zinc, silica, iron and chromium and the rest of the B-vitamin family as well.
Like all whole foods, the nutrients found in Hydrilla are bound to naturally occurring carbohydrates, proteins and polyphenols in organic molecular complexes in the ideal form for human digestion and metabolism, meaning that when you consume Hydrilla your body actually absorbs and assimilates the nutrients therein to be used to help with depression (unlike the synthetic vitamins and minerals found in the majority of supplements, which cannot be fully utilized by cells). This is also in large part due to the fact that Hydrilla is phenomenally rich in a wide range of enzymes, which help the body further digest and assimilate the plant.
And it’s precisely this world-class nutrient profile that explains Hydrilla’s impressively wide range of health benefits and usefulness as a food for depression. Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, nearly every system, gland, and organ in the body including the bones, skin, hair, and blood is either directly or indirectly nourished by the nutrients in the plant.
Many people report feeling an immediate mood and energy boost when taking Hydrilla as their body soaks up the vitamins and minerals it contains in abundance. Whether alone, or combined with the other foods for depression mentioned in this article, it’s a powerful tool for lifelong health, wellness and positive mood.
Where to Get it:
Lotus Superfoods Wildcrafted Hydrilla Verticillata Powder
Lotus Superfoods offers an ultra-high quality wildcrafted, raw, low-temperature milled and dried Hydrilla verticillata powder harvested from a protected reservoir in the United States. This nutrient-dense whole food powder is easily absorbed by the body and has a mild earthy taste and fragrant scent.
Before we go any further, it’s important to talk about the health of your digestion as it relates to overcoming depression and anxiety. Here’s why:
Most people are not aware that a major portion of our nervous system is located in our intestines, also know as the “enteric nervous system” by doctors, or more commonly as our “second brain.” In fact, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine, which are essential antidepressant neurotransmitters. Furthermore, your intestines produce and co-regulate 30 other neurotransmitters identical to those found in your brain that are used by your central nervous system to regulate mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, mental functioning and any number of other essential body processes. As you can imagine, an imbalanced, damaged or poorly functioning digestive system—whether that is due to antibiotic use, diet and lifestyle, or simply overconsumption of irritating foods—interferes with the functioning of this second brain and has been implicated in depression and other mood disorders, immune system disruption and many other common diseases.
What this means is that if you have a poorly functioning digestive tract (whether or not you are aware of it!) your body’s ability to produce the correct levels of neurotransmitters will be severely reduced. This is also the reason why most depression diets fail—they only focus on foods and not on repairing the digestive tract, which is critical for proper neurotransmitter production. And, in fact, most people with depression—unsurprisingly—have weakened digestive function, which is majorly contributing to the problem.
Furthermore weakened digestion also negatively impacts mood and causes depression in another way: if you are not digesting your food properly, you are not getting all the nutrients contained therein so even if you are eating wildly nutrient rich foods for depression like whey, fish oil and Hydrilla, you are only absorbing a fraction of the nutrition therein, which leads to nutrient deficiencies that, again, impede your body’s ability to produce the abundant neurotransmitters and hormones needed to overcome depression with diet.
So how does Ghee factor into all of this and why is it such an important food for depression?
Ghee, which is simply clarified butter, is the most revered food in Ayurvedic medicine, with an incredible array of remarkable healing properties, not least of which is the ability to rapidly repair the digestive tract and improve digestive function.
In a more scientific sense, Ghee heals digestive problems because it is extraordinarily rich in butyric acid, which is used in the treatment of ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer and simple digestive trouble among other things [9,10]. Butyric acid works by soothing and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract and healing wounds in the mucus lining of the stomach and intestines. It also balances the hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach, which are frequently disturbed in those with digestive problems and required to properly digest your food. All of these things make Ghee one of the best foods for depression and an essential component of an effective depression diet.
As an added benefit, Ghee is delicious and makes just about everything it comes into contact with taste much richer and more flavorful.
It’s a super easy win for anyone looking to fight depression with food and diet—it tastes great, it’s inexpensive, and it powerfully restores your digestive functioning and repairs most digestive tract issues so that you are absorbing all the nutrition you are getting from the foods you eat, and your enteric nervous system is able to produce the neurotransmitters you need to feel good. Take anywhere from 3 teaspoons to 3 tablespoons per day about 20 minutes before meals.
Where to Get it:
Pure Indian Foods Organic Ghee
Ghee, which is simply clarified butter, is the most revered food in Ayurvedic medicine, with an incredible array of remarkable healing properties, not least of which is the ability to rapidly repair the digestive tract. Pure Indian Foods Ghee is from grass-fed, pasture raised cows and is incredibly delicious.
Another important aspect of any diet for depression is detoxification of the body and its cells. It’s no secret that we are exposed to an endless stream of chemicals and toxins these days from pesticides and sprays in the foods we eat, to exhaust fumes and particulates in the air we breath, to off-gassing from paints in our houses and heavy metals in the pipes feeding our homes. The body is under assault from toxins like never before in human history—and unfortunately these toxins can and do contribute majorly to depression and anxiety. Many of the toxins we get exposed to on a daily basis are potent neurotoxins that destroy brain cells and endocrine system disruptors that alter hormone balance, in addition to containing heavy metals that interrupt our cells’ ability to function properly. As such, we need to be actively helping the body to detoxify these compounds from our system, otherwise it can get overwhelmed, which quickly leads to low mood, brain fog, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety and more.
That’s where special super foods for depression like Chlorella come in: it’s one of nature’s most powerful detoxifiers and DNA-repairing foods and is extraordinarily effective in reversing almost all of the above problems we face. You see, Chlorella is one of, if not the richest source of Chlorophyll (hence its name)—one of nature’s most potent detoxifying compounds. According to health and nutrition expert Ronnie Landis, it also has a fibrous indigestible shell that binds onto toxins that bio-accumulate in the body and escorts them through the digestive tract for removal. Landis goes on to share the findings of his extensive research into Chlorella, stating that it is widely regarded for its advanced detoxification capabilities, especially in removing environmental toxins, plastic compounds, and heavy metals. It has been shown to be effective in removing toxic elements such as heavy metals (copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, etc.), xenoestrogens such as pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and various carcinogenic compounds such as DDT, PCBs, and alcohol metabolites—all of which should be removed from the body as part of any depression diet. Liver function is central to optimal health, digestion, hormone secretions, and performance. Chlorella is shown to be liver protective, both as a preventative and detoxification modality.
But that’s not all when it comes to Chlorella as a premier food for fighting depression: One of the most fascinating things about Chlorella is how fast it grows: every 20 to 24 hours it quadruples its numbers. In order to do that, it needs huge quantities of raw biological materials to manufacture new cells. Enter Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF). Chlorella Growth Factor is a special compound only found in Chlorella that is a mix of bioavailable nucleotides and peptides, which are the raw materials used in nature to build out new DNA and cell components across almost all life forms, including humans.
When you take Chlorella powder, you are supplying your body with large quantities of Chlorella Growth Factor, and hence raw nucleotides and peptides that your cells can also use to protect, repair and regenerate DNA and RNA, among other things. CGF is considered an anti-aging nutrient that helps the body rejuvenate damaged cells from free radical exposure, improve recovery from sickness, increase immune system function, and re-grow damaged tissues—all of which play a major role in helping us fight depression and boost neurotransmitter levels. CGF is also known to repair, and build back-insulating nerve tissue that protects the delicate nerve fibers that play a major role in our mood and nervous system functioning and are critical to overcoming depression.
And finally, Chlorella is phenomenally rich in many hard to get vitamins and minerals as well protein and other powerful mood-boosting antioxidants. In fact, Chlorella is so nutrient-rich that NASA has considered it as a food for astronauts on long space missions. Furthermore it’s nutrient profile perfectly complements Hydrilla and fills in some of the nutritional gaps in that plant. When it comes to the depression diet, it’s important to get a full spectrum of nutrients and combining multiple foods for depression like Hydrilla, Chlorella, Fish Oil and Whey is truly the way to go as they all complement and synergize with each other in various ways to produce even bigger lifts in your mood and neurotransmitter production.
Where to Get it:
Sun Potion Sound-Shattered Organic Chlorella Powder
Sun Potion’s Chlorella powder is sound shattered to crack the thick cell walls of the Chlorella algae, allowing for maximum nutrient absorption and bioavailability. Certified organic for maximum purity and potency, Sun Potion’s chlorella comes in special dark blue glass jars that ensure the sensitive Chlorella powder is as fresh and energetically alive as possible.
6. Pine Pollen
When it comes to depression, treatments and foods that boost the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin typically get all the attention. However, it is equally important—perhaps even moreso—to make sure the body is also producing abundant and balanced amounts of hormones as well.
You see, hormones are the master controllers of health—they control gland and organ function throughout the body, including one of the biggest organs of them all: your brain. That’s right, hormones control your brain function and many other extraordinarily important glands that control your mood at the most fundamental levels. If your hormones are out of balance or are being underproduced you’ve got a problem that can be hard to fix by normal dietary means, even if you are consuming all the antidepressant foods outlined in this article.
The solution? Eat special medicinal foods for depression like Pine Pollen, which is abundant in the hormone-boosting compound DHEA. DHEA is often referred to as the “wonder hormone” or “master hormone” because the body can convert it into either testosterone or estrogen depending on what it needs for greater balance.
DHEA is the most abundant and important precursor hormone in the human body, meaning that it is the largest raw material your body uses to produce other vital hormones. Imbalances in DHEA levels can and do throw the body’s entire hormonal production cascade out of balance. Furthermore, DHEA production tends to decline as we begin to get older; and many researchers hypothesize that signs of aging are simply the body reflecting lower levels of DHEA production, which is why Pine Pollen is widely considered to be a longevity-enhancing herb.
DHEA production occurs in the adrenal glands, so chronic stress from low emotional states like depression and anxiety—along with poor diet—tend to affect its production most significantly outside of aging. Low levels of DHEA are associated with immune conditions, low libido, depression, cognitive decline, and accumulation of fat on the body, among other things. Consequently, optimal DHEA levels are associated with improved mood, muscle development, fat loss, increased sex drive, and immunity, as well as a number of other significant benefits that closely mirror the effects of Pine Pollen. Many people suffering from anxiety and depression also suffer from low or non-existent sex drive, which can contribute to feeling depressed and unmotivated in and of itself.
If that wasn’t enough, Pine Pollen also happens to be one of the most nutritious foods on the planet as well, containing hundreds of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that nourish the body at a fundamental level, making it an excellent depression-fighting food. It’s particularly rich in B-vitamins, amino acids and Vitamin D3, which heavily influences neurotransmitter production and mood and is notoriously difficult to get from diet alone, the only other sources being egg yolks and fish, in addition to the sun. Pine Pollen is also rich in more exotic, albeit vitally important, compounds such as nucleic acids (DNA-repairing fragments) and superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant and cell protectant, among many others.
And it’s not hard to see why it’s such a powerful health- and mood-boosting food and a great addition to the depression diet. Pine Pollen is just that—the pollen of Pine trees. Pollen is actually a form of a seed; and, like all seeds, it contains the fundamental nutrients and essence necessary to grow a towering 100-foot tall Pine tree that can live for hundreds of years. As such, it contains an incredibly wide spectrum and high concentration of unique and rare nutrients that do much the same for the human body as it does for the tree itself: promotes rapid growth, rejuvenation, and healing—all things that are helpful for depression.
If you have been having mixed or no results with known mood-boosting foods that seem to work well for most people, then low or imbalanced hormonal levels could be the culprit. While DHEA supplements are available, in my opinion it’s best to get it from whole foods like Pine Pollen, which contain the compound in much safer doses and in combination with other synergistic nutrients, vitamins and minerals that all work together to boost mood and fight depression.
If you do decide to use Pine Pollen as a food for depression, it is important to note that DHEA can only be absorbed into the bloodstream under the tongue or in the esophagus. It will not survive in the stomach and will be readily excreted by the liver. This means that to get maximum benefit from Pine Pollen its best to mix the raw powder with a tiny bit of water and then hold it under your tongue for a minute or so to allow it to be absorbed sublingually.
Where to Get it:
Sun Potion Wildcrafted Pine Pollen Powder
Sun Potion offers a highly nutrient-dense Pine Pollen powder wild harvested in pristine, remote mountain regions. This bright yellow superfood is a powerful hormone booster and great addition to any depression diet.
7. Mucuna Pruriens
Out of all the foods for depression that exist, Mucuna Pruriens, which is a medicinal bean that grows throughout tropical regions of the world, holds a special place because of its extreme uniqueness. Mucuna is one of nature’s most potent antidepressant foods—it is extraordinarily rich in L-Dopa (which is the precursor to dopamine) and also contains smaller amounts of serotonin, which are the two primary mood-boosting neurotransmitters in the brain and body. Mucuna is also rich in other somewhat rare neurochemicals like 5-MeO-DMT and 5-HTP, which all boost neurotransmitter production to varying degrees.
In one animal study study, Mucuna Pruriens was found to restore levels of serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine in various regions of the brain,  and it is actively being used to treat Parkinson’s disease, which is believed to occur in large part due to a lack of dopamine in the brain.
Like Pine Pollen, it has also been found to boost hormone production and libido, which can help to fight depression in many cases if low or imbalanced hormone levels are a contributing factor. Mucuna has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which, when too high, can cause anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and depression. All in all it is a worthy addition to any diet for depression and is used successfully by many around the world to boost mood and neurotransmitter production.
Mucuna is also fairly rich in a number of vitamins and minerals as well, and for this and other reasons it is eaten daily in many indigenous cultures around the world and is a remarkably safe and effective food for fighting depression.
Where to Get it:
Banyan Botanicals Organic Mucuna Extract (kapikacchu) Powder
Banyan Botanicals Mucuna Pruriens extract powder (of which the traditional Sanskrit name is Kapikacchu) is an organically grown, ultra-pure and highly concentrated powder providing high levels of L-Dopa and other synergistic plant nutrients and medicinal compounds that help fight depression.
Often missing from most depression diet’s recommended in books and around the web is iodine and trace minerals—and no food is a better source of these two things than seaweed and in particular, Nori, which is an especially delicious variety. Iodine and trace minerals are both extremely important nutrients for fighting depression and boosting mood, brain and cellular function and are almost always deficient in people with depression and anxiety. According to the researchers behind the published study Iodine Deficiency and the Brain: Effects and Mechanisms:
Iodine deficiency is the most prevalent and preventable cause of mental impairment in the world. The exact mechanism through which iodine influences the brain is unclear, but is generally thought to begin with genetic expression. Many brain structures and systems appear to be affected with iodine deficiency, including areas such as the hippocampus, microstructures such as myelin, and neurotransmitters. 
Furthermore iodine is an extremely important mineral for hormone production in the body, which when out of balance can easily lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety as well as many of the accompanying symptoms of depression like fatigue, low energy, low sex drive and lack of motivation.
But iodine is just one of nearly 100 different minerals that your body needs daily for proper functioning and neurotransmitter production. Most of these are needed in only very small amounts, however, they can be hard to get from normal foods because they are deficient in improperly tended soils on large-scale farming operations where most all food is grown these days. However, these mood-boosting trace minerals, which are an essential part of any effective depression diet, are found in abundance in seaweeds like Nori, which grows in trace mineral-rich ocean water.
Nori is often overlooked as a food for depression, however, it is as essential in its own way as any other antidepressant food on this list.
Where to Get it:
Premium Roasted Organic Nori Sheets
Packed with rare, hard to get vitamins, minerals and amino acids, this ultra-high quality organic Nori is a powerful food for depression and delicious as well. Can be eaten by itself or sprinkled onto other foods and dishes as a savory flavor enhancer.
9. Rice Bran Tocotrienols
Another little-known but highly potent food for depression is Rice Bran. Rice Bran is the delightfully sweet and tasty, extremely nutrient rich outer hull of brown rice that is removed when making white rice. Why anyone would want to remove nutrients from food is beyond me but the benefit of this process is that the companies that make white rice collect and sell the nutrient-dense rice bran to be used as an amazing, mood-boosting food by those seeking better health. Since the virtually nutritionless rice kernel has been removed, which makes up the bulk of a piece of rice, the resulting rice bran is extremely concentrated, meaning that eating a few tablespoons is equivalent to getting the nutrition of eating bowls of brown rice—and brown rice is one of the most nutrient-rich, health-boosting foods on the planet, known, in particular for boosting serotonin levels in particular. Brown rice is almost always listed as one of the most important foods on a depression diet and this is a way to double or triple its nutritional punch.
All in all, rice bran is a powerful depression fighting food that is rich in B-vitamins, relaxing minerals like magnesium, the mood-boosting omega 3, 6 and 9 fats, special brain function-enhancing nutrients like lecithin, phosphatidyl choline and serine, and over 100 antioxidants. Widely regarded as one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods, it tastes great and it’s relatively inexpensive, making it a staple for an effective depression diet.
Where to Get it:
Sun Potion Rice Bran Tocotrienols Powder
This delicious, highly nutritious rice bran tocotrienols powder is made form naturally grown, Non-GMO brown rice and gently temperature milled to preserve heat-sensitive, depression fighting nutrients. Easily mixes with all liquids and can be combined with yogurt, cereals, smoothies and more.
10. Organic, Cage-Free Eggs
Eggs and in particular egg yolks are hands down one of the most powerful foods for depression and should be eaten regularly on any depression-fighting diet. They are rich in a wide variety of exotic brain and neurotransmitter-boosting nutrients like lecithin, choline and cholesterol as well as mood boosting B-vitamins like B12 and biotin and large amounts of ultra-high quality protein.
Choline, for example, boost levels of acetylcholine in the brain, one of the primary neurotransmitters involved in motivation, mood and proper functioning of the nervous system. The lecithin in eggs supplies the body with phosphatidylserine, an especially relaxing compound shown to reduce cortisol, help with insomnia, reduce anxiety and peripherally boost mood. Despite all the demonization in the media, abundant levels of cholesterol are essential for proper function of the human body—ALL hormones are synthesized from cholesterol, and if your levels are too low it can actually cause depression, anxiety and all kinds of other problems. Although this is more rare, getting a bit every day in your diet from eggs is helpful just to be on the safe side.
Another reason why eggs are such a great food for depression is that they are rich in calming and anxiety-reducing saturated fats. Saturated fat is important for constructing the myelin sheathing covering the nerves, among many other things, and if you don’t get it in the proper amount and ratio to other fats in your diet, it can lead to anxiety and depression. Eating an egg or an egg yolk daily is a great way to supplement with depression-fighting saturated fats.
The point in case is that all of these unique nutrients synergize together in the body when you eat eggs and in particular yolks to provide abundant raw materials to produce proper neurotransmitter levels and elevate mood, which is what you are going for on any diet for depression.
Where to Get it:
Your local health food store, farmers market or supermarket.
Dietary Guidelines for Treating Depression: The Basics
As mentioned, the 10 special foods for depression listed above are a great first line of attack and should be continued daily long-term for maximum benefit, however, there are some additional important guidelines outlined below that should also be followed for the depression diet to have its maximum mood-boosting effects. Making the dietary changes that follow will increase the effectiveness of the special foods for depression even moreso.
1. Only Eat Organic and Natural Foods Whenever Possible
While some people think eating organic and natural food is for hippies or rich Californians, the truth is that it’s an extremely important dietary shift if you are struggling with depression. Here’s why:
+ Organic foods are grown in healthier soils, which supply higher levels of essential mood-boosting nutrients. Soils are where plants get the raw materials they need to make abundant minerals, vitamins, proteins, antioxidants and more that are essential for your body to produce abundant mood-boosting hormones and neurotransmitters. Non-organic foods are almost always grown in devitalized, overworked soils and will often have significantly lower levels of the essential nutrients needed for overcoming depression. Eating non-organic foods regularly can contribute to depression by creating nutrient deficiencies in the brain and body.
+ Organic foods are grown without the use of chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified seeds. If you drank just a few ounces of the chemicals and pesticides sprayed in abundance on non-organic foods, you would get very sick and potentially even die. In fact, areas with high pesticide and agricultural chemical use have exponentially higher rates of cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. They are very toxic to all life and destroy cellular functioning, among other things. When you eat non-organic or non-naturally grown foods you are consuming large amounts of these chemicals and pesticides over time, which absolutely has a negative impact on your health, mood and body function and can definitely cause depression, anxiety, brain fog and more. An effective depression diet must not regularly include foods sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.
Genetically Modified Foods are almost always sprayed with chemicals and pesticides as part of the growing process and also have questionable health effects themselves. Rats fed high amounts of GMO foods often develop tumors, cancers, genetic defects and more. These are not ideal foods for depression and should be avoided as much as possible. Essentially, the rule of thumb is if it is not organic or specifically labeled as non-GMO, it could have GMOs in it. Organic food regulations do not allow GMO seeds or ingredients and prohibit the use of synthetic agricultural chemicals.
2. Eat Whole, Unrefined Foods Grown Naturally
It’s no secret that processed, refined foods (fast food, candy, white breads, white rice, etc.) make us sick and cause serious diseases like cancer and diabetes, but what many don’t realize is that they also have negative effects on our mood as well, although this is not as commonly talked about. As foods are processed and refined, they are stripped of their depression-fighting abilities, primarily through the removal of essential mood-boosting nutrients. Furthermore, processed foods almost always have preservatives, refined sugar and synthetic flavor enhancers like MSG and other chemicals added to make it more palatable. All of these have known negative effects on the brain and body and can and do cause anxiety and depression. For your depression diet to be fully effective, you’ll need to stop eating the foods listed in the “Foods to Avoid If You Are Depressed or Anxious” section below.
+ Avoid preservatives, artificial flavors and all synthetic ingredients. Preservatives, artificial flavors and all synthetic ingredients are unnatural and don’t belong in the body—when scientists give them to animals to understand their effects, the animals often become obese, addicted to the substance in question and/or show signs of anxiety, poor health and neurological disruption. As such they are not good foods for depression and should be avoided as much as possible. Some people are very sensitive to these types of synthetic food additives and often times have major improvements in their depression just by eliminating them! For a complete list of foods and ingredients to avoid as part of your diet for depression, check out the list at the end of this article.
+ Eat food as close to its natural state as possible. The further food gets from its natural state like you would find it growing wildly in nature, the less healthy it becomes. This is because as food is refined, its depression-fighting nutrients are removed. White bread and white rice are made from wheat and rice that have had all the highly nutritious bran removed via processing. The bran is the outer layer of the grain that contains up to 90% or more of the vitamins, minerals and proteins that fight depression and supply our body with essential nutrients for health and mood. This goes for all foods—the more refined and processed they are, the less nutrition they have and the less the food helps fight depression and anxiety and works to create it instead. Try to stay away from packaged foods in general, which tend to be processed. There are exceptions but you will need to read the ingredients label closely to be sure. If it has more than five or so ingredients or anything that doesn’t sound natural, be careful.
Ideal Depression Fighting Foods
These ideal foods for depression can be eaten raw and whole or be cooked or combined into more tasty depression-fighting food combinations. Basically, whatever dish or meal you are making as part of your depression diet, you want these foods to be the raw materials that you cook with. A good whole foods and/or organic cookbook (we recommend this one: The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook) is worth investing in to make this process easier! Remember, you want all the foods outlined below to be organic, natural, whole and unprocessed.
+ Fruits of all types
+ Vegetables of all types
+ Whole Grains (brown/red/black rice, quinoa, whole wheat, barley, millet, amaranth, oats, etc.)
+ Beans and legumes of all types
+ Nuts of all types including nut butters (avoid peanuts as are they are almost always contaminated with mold)
+ Seeds of all types including seed butters
+ Dairy products in moderation (pastured eggs, cheese [avoid high-mold cheeses like brie, bleu, gorgonzola and aged varieties], milk, butter, ghee, yogurt, etc.)
+ Animal foods and meats (see guidelines in the next section)
+ Spices and organic condiments
+ Fats (only use the ones outlined in the following sections)
+ Superfoods of all types
Note: Snack foods like toasted nuts and seeds and organic, natural potato/tortilla chips cooked in one of the types of oils listed below, along with organic and natural dried fruit, protein bars, chocolate, cookies and ice cream and so on are fine in moderation on a depression diet so long as they are only made of high-quality, ideally organic ingredients and contain no preservatives, artificial flavors, chemicals or MSG (sometimes disguised as yeast extract). Look for cookies and sweets flavored with honey, stevia or maple syrup rather than sugar.
+ Choose grass-fed, free range, organic, natural and hormone/antibiotic free meats and sustainably harvested seafood. All of the above guidelines as to ideal foods for the depression diet apply to meats as well and are doubly important here. Non-organic and natural meats are almost always from animals fed non-organic feed (meaning the animals are accumulating pesticides, chemicals and other depression-causing substances) and are regularly injected with synthetic hormones and antibiotics, all of which then get passed on to you and as you may have guessed, cause endocrine system disruption, depression and anxiety. Consequently, animals that are fed organic diets of foods they naturally eat in the wild are significantly healthier and that means the meats that come from them are more nutrient dense and therefore more powerful depression fighting foods. The optimal types of meats and seafood to be eaten on any diet for depression are:
+ Grass-fed and/or organic beef and lamb
+ Free-range, natural and/or organic chicken, pork and eggs
+ Wild-caught fish that are on the safe to eat sustainable seafood list
+ Stick to Traditional Oils and Fats. Modern food processing technology allows us to extract oils from just about any plant that has them nowadays, but not all plants have oils that are healthy and ideal for the human body. Many commonly used oils like sunflower, soybean and canola oil create large amounts of inflammation in the body which often leads to brain fog and can cause depression and anxiety.  Unfortunately, these highly refined, non-ideal oils are cheap and taste pretty good, which makes them very popular at restaurants and in many home kitchens. However, if you are truly looking to beat depression with food, then you’ll want to avoid them as much as possible. When cooking, stick to using only the following depression-fighting oils and you should be feeling better in no time:
+ Olive Oil
+ Coconut Oil
+ Fish Oil (Not for cooking but great to supplement with as a powerful food for depression)
It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive to Eat Like This!
Before you cringe and think this is going to be really expensive to eat like this, hold up. Now more that ever there are abundant resources for you to find inexpensive organic and natural foods that will form the foundation your depression diet. In fact, we have written a whole article about it, Eating Healthy on a Budget: How to Get Ultra-High-Quality Organic Food and Supplements For Half The Price, and outline more resources at the end of this article.
3. Eat Fresh and Avoid the Microwave
The more time that passes from when a food is picked from the farm, killed or harvested to when you eat it, the less healthy it is for you. This is because once a food is harvested, it slowly begins to decompose and as this happens, nutrient levels decline and molds and bacteria increase. As you now know, an abundant supply of whole food nutrients is important for beating depression with diet. If you have a farmers market in your city, you can usually get food the same day or the day after it is harvested which is ideal. However, don’t get stressed out about trying to find ultra-fresh foods—at most health food stores, the food in the produce section is fairly fresh (usually 1-3 days from the farm) and will do just fine for the purposes of the depression diet as it is usually refrigerated and kept fresh. If you are shopping at a traditional grocery store (non-health food store) then seek out organic produce whenever possible as this is usually the most fresh and as you know, organic foods are the ideal foods for depression anyway. This is less important for grains, nuts and seeds, which can stay good for much longer—for months and even years when stored properly.
+ Ditch the microwave. It is important to also avoid certain methods of cooking while on any type of depression-fighting diet, and in particular microwaving as this is the least-natural way of cooking and has the biggest negative effect on the nutritional value of the food. Microwaves denature the nutrients in foods at a molecular level so that they are partially destroyed and unusable by the body. Hence it is a very nutrient-destructive process and is not the ideal of way of cooking food for depression and anxiety. Instead cook foods on the stove top or in the oven—it may take a bit longer but everything will taste infinitely better, and the resulting meals will help you overcome depression and anxiety, not contribute to it.
4. It’s Okay to Cheat From Time to Time
I get it. For some of you reading this article, the changes I am suggesting as part of the depression diet may involve cutting out some of your favorite foods that you really enjoy and give you lots of comfort. While the rule of thumb is that the larger percentage of your diet that follows the above guidelines, the better you will feel, it’s okay to splurge from time to time, i.e. no more than once per week and the less often the better. Eating unhealthy foods every once in awhile is not going to undo all the positive effects you get from following a depression diet like this. However, if you begin to regularly eat unhealthy foods throughout the week, it will slow or even stop your progress—often times significantly.
On the other side of the coin, if you stick to the foods for depression outlined in this article for a few weeks, you will eventually lose the taste for junk foods, and if you do fall off the bandwagon and eat them, you will immediately notice how much worse you feel, which makes it really easy to not continue doing that.
Furthermore, in most cases you can still eat unhealthy foods you love in moderation that may not otherwise be ideal on the depression diet so long as you switch to a healthier version that meets the guidelines outlined in this article (i.e. they are organic/natural, free from preservatives, chemicals, artificial flavors and synthetic ingredients and are made from whole, unrefined ingredients). There are such things as organic, unprocessed, relatively healthy ice cream, cookies, chocolate, cakes and so on. Just try not to overdo it as these foods are often high in sugar and dairy products, which can cause their own problems with mood if over-consumed. Eating unhealthy foods a couple of times per week or per month is no big deal IF they are organic, natural and meet the other guidelines outlined in this article, but if it starts to become more frequent than that, it could be sabotaging your efforts to beat depression with food.
Foods to Avoid If You Are Depressed or Anxious
If the above guidelines weren’t clear enough, here is a specific list of foods to avoid if you are trying to overcome depression and anxiety:
+ Fast food of all kinds
+ Sugary foods like pastries, cookies, ice cream, etc. (these are ok in very limited quantities as long as they are made from organic ingredients and follow the guidelines outlined in this article)
+ White bread
+ White rice
+ Foods made from white flour like most pasta (choose whole wheat, brown rice or quinoa pasta instead)
+ Products with soy in them (organic tofu, tempeh and edamame are ok in moderation)
+ Refined oils (hydrogenated oils, soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, etc.)
+ Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Also goes by the names: hydrolyzed vegetable protein and yeast extract and can be hidden in natural flavorings
When in doubt, read the nutrition and ingredients panel: does it have added, synthetic-sounding ingredients? Is sugar one of the first ingredients? Does it have anything in it from the list above? If so, put it back and find something that meets the criteria outlined in this article. If you are having trouble finding depression-fighting foods that meet these criteria in your city, then read on to find out where you can get healthy, organic, delicious foods for depression that meet or exceed the guidelines outlined in this article (and inexpensively at that!).
Where to Get Healthy, Whole Organic Depression-Fighting Foods
If you have a farmers market or health food store in your city, you can usually find many of the depression-fighting foods listed in this article there. However, not all cities have farmers markets of health food stores and even if they do, they don’t always have the foods or ingredients you need/want. If that’s the case for you, we recommend ordering as much as you can from online health food warehouses like Thrive Market.
Not only does Thrive Market have an absolutely massive selection of health foods and natural products (seriously, they have just about anything you could want), they also have much better prices than you will ever find at the health food store or supermarket—typically on the order of 20-60% lower than retail. If you can’t find healthy food in your area, Thrive Market is a godsend. In fact, even if you do have access to healthy food where you live, you’ll probably still want to shop there as their prices are so much lower, it can often save you lots of money. I live in a town with multiple health food stores, and we still order food from Thrive almost every month. It gets delivered right to your front door at half the price… that’s pretty hard to beat!
Recommended Product Disclaimer
The products recommended in this article may have different formulations than the products used in the studies and research cited in this article. As such, they may have different effects than have been reported by these studies. No claim is made or implied whatsoever as to the effects of any recommended products or their effects on health. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.
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About The Author
Justin Faerman has been studying and writing about holistic health practices, herbalism and natural medicine for over 14 years and is a leading authority on both modern and ancient therapies for creating lasting health and wellness. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has conducted field research into organic and regenerative agriculture practices and eco-social sustainability during his time there. He is also the Founder of Lotus Superfoods, a boutique purveyor of rare herbs and superfoods as well as the Co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and the Flow Consciousness Institute. Learn more about his work at flowconsciousnessinstitute.com and lotussuperfoods.com