8 Mood Foods that Fight Depression

Mood Foods that Fight Depression

Did you know that the foods you eat can either fire up overactivity in your brain’s limbic system (emotional center), which brain scans show is linked to depression, or it can calm activity to promote more positive moods? Increasingly, researchers are concluding that people with mental health disorders, such as depression, are consuming diets that are lacking in key nutrients for brain health. A growing body of evidence suggests that nutritional treatment—aka, eating targeted foods—may help prevent, treat, or improve depression, as well as other conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADD/ADHD.

The scientific community is finally beginning to see how food is so strongly linked to mood and mental health. In 2015, a group of 18 scientists concluded that “the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.”

Here are 8 foods you should include in your diet if you want to boost your mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

1. Berries: The Antioxidant Answer

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries are “smart” carbohydrates that are packed with nutrients that balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings. Colorful berries are also full of mood benefits, providing nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A 2009 study on the impact of antioxidant therapy on depression found that people who had been treated with antioxidants for two years significantly lowered their depression score.

2. Water: The Secret Mood Booster

Your brain is comprised of 80% water and research shows that being even mildly dehydrated can negatively impact moods. In both women and men, it can make you feel more anxious, tense, depressed, or angry, in addition to sapping your energy levels and lowering your ability to concentrate. Staying adequately hydrated can help optimize moods, motivation, and energy levels. And according to a 2018 study in the World Journal of Psychiatry, drinking plain old H20 is associated with a decrease in depression and anxiety,

3. Lean Protein: Building Blocks for Neurotransmitters

Lean protein—such as chicken, turkey, beef, fish, and lamb—provides essential amino acids, which are precursors for neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which play an important role in mental health. A 2019 study on nutrition and depression in adolescents shows that low intake of amino acids has been linked to reduced synthesis of these neurotransmitters and consequently, low moods and aggression. For optimal brain health, choose hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, and grass-fed animal proteins.

4. Salmon: A Healthy Dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Did you know that 60% of the solid weight of your brain is fat? Low-fat diets are not good for your brain or your mood. Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, and a wealth of research has shown that these fats can reduce symptoms of depression. A 2009 review of three studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in major depression in adults, depression in children, and depression in bipolar disorder found that EPA (a form of omega-3s) reduced symptoms in all three types of depression with no side effects. When shopping, opt for wild salmon, not the farm-raised variety.

5. Kimchi: Probiotic Power

Kimchi supports healthy gut bacteria, which is tightly linked to mood. The gut—your gastrointestinal tract (GI)—is often called the second brain because it is lined with about 100 million neurons. And 75% of the body’s neurotransmitters—including feel-good ones like serotonin— are produced in the gut. A 2017 review of the existing research suggests that treatment with probiotics can alleviate depressive symptoms.

6. Saffron: Nature’s Antidepressant

Herbs and spices are as powerful as medicines. In multiple studies, a saffron extract was found to be as effective as antidepressant medication in treating people with major depression.

7. Avocados: Oleic Acid Attacks Bad Moods

This popular green fruit contains healthy fats that fuel brainpower and is high in oleic acid. A 2009 study that followed 4,856 adults for a decade found that women who consumed the most oleic acid were less than half as likely to suffer from severe depression.

8. Dark Leafy Greens: Anti-Inflammatory Action

Whether you prefer kale, spinach, or broccoli, be sure to fuel up on these nutrient-dense vegetables. In addition to being chock-full of vitamins and minerals, they fight inflammation, which has been linked to depression, according to research in JAMA Psychiatry.

At Amen Clinics, our brain imaging work has helped us see the powerful impact food has on brain function and on conditions, such as depression. We take an integrative approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes looking at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of your life to identify areas that can be optimized. This includes nutritional coaching, natural supplements, and many other of the least toxic, most effective solutions.

If you’re suffering from symptoms of depression and want a whole-person approach rather than just pills, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.


  1. thank you for just telling it and not running through all kinds of junk, I’ve been reading Amen books for a long time, 92 years old and almost never sick or even have a cold

    Comment by Sally Porter — January 27, 2020 @ 8:22 AM

  2. Ditto ❣️

    Comment by Shelley Wilson — January 27, 2020 @ 12:23 PM

  3. I have a Son, 47 years old that started spiraling downward about 4 years ago. After being in Psych hospitals and finally Personal Care Home, he continues to talk to someone out loud. He was diagnosed with early onset of dementia and illusional disorders. He all of a sudden wanted a divorce after 20 years of marriage, he sold his thriving pest control company and went to work for a wrecker company, was fired because he lost his way and put gasoline in a diesel truck. He hasn’t worked in over 3 years. He hasn’t driven in 3 1/2 years. Can someone please tell me if this sounds right, that he has dementia? I truly believe that those chemicals he used for 15 years has some how affected his brain. I’m at a loss, I would trade places with him in a heartbeat, he is young and his body is healthy just not his brain. We do not have the money for all the tests he may need.
    Thank you,

    Comment by Vickie Barron — January 27, 2020 @ 6:12 PM

  4. I drink two nutritional drinks a day and a breakfast usually a couple eggs some fresh fruit with a 16 oz of water. Is this enough I have swallowing issues . I was forced to keep secrets since I was a child and as a adult while I report it . I still get the same thing even to those who are in authority so I still find it hard on the days when I have to interact with them harder to swallow I used call it the district imposed silence. As I study , I call it Collective selective mutism and how to protect a predator that’s what we learned in school k 12 public schools and no one would ever allow us to report The teacher s behavior . Even to this very day . I’ve been talking the last couple days I’m not going say to Who those who lived through it with me to protect them. Today I can’t swallow at all what’s the best thing I can have when I can’t swallow any substance of food?

    Comment by Donna Calvey — January 28, 2020 @ 6:06 AM

  5. Nutrition is key. Unfortunately, for many it is not always affordable due to deficiencies of basic needs such as health, housing, food, or medical health care necessities. To be able to maintain all Dr. Amen aptly covers in his books, blogs, newsletters and in clinical practice, Access to Nutrition, Healthy Foods/Living, Supplementation, overall Health and well being for both young or old must be a priority. For myself, I’ve been able to implement some of Dr Amen’s protocols little by little, and am grateful for all that he provides to people with the wisdom, concern and care for healing. Amen to Dr. Amen.

    Comment by Michele R Renaud — January 28, 2020 @ 1:18 PM

  6. Hi Vickie,
    I’m not sure if this could help your son but might be worth a try looking into it. I was exposed to chemicals on a job and also toxic heavy metals during some medical diagnostic tests and was starting to get some brain fog and trouble focusing. I used a product called Pure Body Extra Strength from a co. called Touchstone Essentials out of Utah and saw definite improvement. They use a rare mineral called Zeolite that eliminates dangerous toxins from the body and brain at the cellular level. Look them up on the internet and call them to see if they think this could help in your son’s case.

    Comment by Frank — January 29, 2020 @ 7:49 PM

  7. Thank-you for this excellent and informative article. I would like to ask if there is a saffron extract supplement that you particularly recommend. I read (most of) the medical study to which this article is linked. It seems that, in addition to the benefits of a saffron supplement, there are some significant negative side-effects and even dangers that are connected with its use. The article said that culinary use is not dangerous, but that supplements can cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, and even death at high amounts. It also can cause damage to unborn fetuses. How would you recommend adding this supplement safely to one’s regimen? And are there concerns about drug interactions? For instance, for those, like me, who have atrial fibrillation and are on medicines for that.

    Comment by Deborah — February 14, 2020 @ 4:43 AM

  8. Hello Vickie
    Have you heard of cadasil?

    Comment by Amanda — February 15, 2020 @ 8:45 AM

  9. How important. It would be to make full brain spectrums affordable not only for the rich. I believe many including myself would suffer less from depression, brain fog anxiety such as myself wiuld benefit from knowing which way to go in combating what Am going through. Although I’ve never had one done, I believe the benefits would allow life to be enjoyable again.

    Comment by Eddie — January 24, 2022 @ 3:27 PM

  10. Can you comment on helpful foods, liquid nutrition and vitamin doses for someone with Dementia?
    Thank you!

    Comment by Trisha — March 21, 2022 @ 5:31 PM

  11. You can make tea with the saffron. It’s delicious.

    Comment by Ann — November 11, 2023 @ 9:14 PM

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