Certain foods fight depression by increasing the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. These six foods are a natural treatment for depression for some people – but not everyone.
What you eat has a direct effect on your mood – and certain foods can even treat depressed feelings. Depression can be caused by low serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain; these foods naturally improve mood by increasing those brain chemicals.
It’s important to remember that how depression is treated depends on the cause of the depression. For instance, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is often best treated with a light therapy lamp in addition to eating healthful foods. But no matter what the cause is, eating the right foods can change how chemicals are produced and stored in your body, which can affect how you feel.
Another tip about treating depression naturally is to pay attention to your spiritual side – your soul. Some people believe depression can be caused by blocked energy, unprocessed emotions, or a disconnection from God or the Universe.
Foods for Depression
Eating the right food can be an effective way to help treat depression, but please don’t neglect your health care provider! Talk to your doctor or naturopathic physician about the cause and treatment for your depressed feelings.
And in the meantime, here are a few foods that are considered to be natural treatments for depression…
Sardines are a low contaminant fish, high in both Vitamin D and Omega-3′s. “The fats in dairy, meats and oils are important for the production of acetylcholine, which is crucial for memory formation and general neural integrity,” writes Dr Pierce Howard in The Owner’s Manual for the Brain.
Salmon, char, haddock, shrimp, and rainbow trout are other natural foods that fight depression naturally, because they are high in omega-3 oils. Since the brain is 60% fat, it needs those omega-3 oils to renew and repair cells. Omega-3 oils can also prevent mood swings and stabilize emotions naturally.
Low levels of folic acid and vitamin B are connected to depression, though doctors haven’t nailed down the exact link. They do know that people with depression have lower levels of folate and vitamin B. Skim milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and eggs are high in B, and can improve mood by stabilizing emotions. These foods also boost the immune system, which decreases the chance of other types of physical illness.
Going out for sushi? Order edamame! Commonly found in China and Japan, edamame is baby soybeans served whole. This food for depression is high in protein, low in fat, and delicious. Since edamame helps stabilize sugar levels, it can improve mood and decrease depressed feelings.
For more tips on treating depression naturally, read Seasonal Depression Disorder – Natural Remedies for SAD.
Blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are high in polyphenols, which are a category of flavonoids. Research shows that these berries can reverse some effects of age-related brain decline, such as Alzheimer’s.
Other scientists found that flavonoids work with vitamin C to prevent that vitamin’s breakdown and boost the fight against free radicals. Berries also guard against macular degeneration, various cancers, and brain cell loss. The healthier the brain, the happier your mood!
Beans, Legumes and Soy
Black beans, soybeans, split peas and tofu are among the “bean and pea” family of foods that fight disease, which makes them a perfect food for depression. Beans contain high amounts of thiamine, a B-vitamin key in building healthy brain cells, improving memory, and stabilizing cognitive function.
Beans and legumes are also full of soluble fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar. This improves mood and fights depression by preventing mood swings.
Ground flaxseeds are better than whole flaxseeds because they offer more omega-3 fatty acids, which increase serotonin levels. Omega-3s can sharpen minds, stabilize moods, and trigger the production of brain chemicals that help fight depression naturally.
Whether or not you’re medically diagnosed as depressed, your eating habits directly affect your mood, thoughts, and even interactions with other people. A happier mood can be as simple as knowing what foods for depression work best — which involves some experimentation with recipes and cooking.
Again, it’s important to remember that the cause of your depression affects what the treatment is. Consult with your doctor before trying anything to treat depression, even naturally.
If someone you love is fighting depression, read When Your Boyfriend is Depressed – 6 Things You Can Do to Help.
The Owner’s Manual for the Brain (Bard Press, 2006), Dr Pierce J. Howard.
The Brain Wash (John Wiley & Sons, 2007), Michelle Schoffro Cook.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.