Natural and Healthy Foods for Depression

Healthy, natural foods for depression affect the brain and mental health. Discover how and get a list of healthy, natural foods for depression on HealthyPlace now.

Eating natural and healthy foods for depression makes a significant—and positive—difference in overall mental health and wellbeing. The food we eat matters. We can feel it, and now research is proving this fundamental fact. Natural and healthy foods for depression will always make the list of best foods for fighting depression.

Why are natural foods for depression worth looking into? When the body digests food, it’s breaking down what we’ve eaten to the molecular level and converting food into what makes the brain and the whole body run well (or, in the case of unhealthy junk food, run poorly). Take serotonin, for example. It’s a neurotransmitter (often considered a hormone) that plays one of the starring roles in our mental health and workings of the body. Serotonin:

  • Is involved in communication between nerve cells in the brain
  • Precedes melatonin so is important in our sleep-wake cycle
  • Is involved in cognitive functioning
  • Helps coordinate the nervous system and motor functions
  • Maintains a balanced mood 
  • Deficiencies are linked to depression

Serotonin is an important biochemical, and we must have the correct amount of it to keep depression at bay and experience emotional wellness.

So how do we make sure we have the proper amount of serotonin? Where does this neurotransmitter come from? It’s made by our own bodies, in the brain, and in the intestines. And how do our bodies make it? Serotonin comes from the food we eat. It comes from protein, amino acids. (Incidentally, all the neurotransmitters are made by the body from amino acids which come from the food we eat.) Keep in mind, too, that serotonin is just one of our inner workings that contributes to depression. Food affects it all, not just serotonin. That’s why healthy and natural foods for depression can make a difference.

Among the worst foods for depression, processed foods such as simple carbohydrates (refined sugars) and harmful fats (saturated and trans fats) are damaging not just to our heart, blood pressure, weight, but they cause or contribute to mental health problems as well. These foods are harmful to the brain and are linked to diets causing depression.

Healthy, Natural Foods for Depression

What, then, do our brains need from us? To enjoy wellbeing and a depression-free life, the brain needs us to eat well. Healthy foods for depression include

  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Healthy, natural fats—omega-3 fatty acids in particular
  • Vitamins—antioxidants, the B vitamins, vitamin D
  • Minerals—magnesium, selenium, calcium, sodium (moderate amounts

In general, the less processed a food, the better it is because foods in their natural state have had nothing removed, no nutrients have been refined away. When planning your diet for mental health and wellbeing, then, look for natural or minimally processed foods common to vegan, vegetarian and low (simple) carb diets. Those natural foods for depression can make a difference in how you feel.

Use this list of healthy, natural foods for depression to start eating healthy now. Choose foods you like, and add others, too. Eat these foods as they are, or use them in healthy recipes. When they become regular components of your meals and snacks, you’ll begin to notice that you feel better.

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt (especially with probiotics)
  • Soy products
  • Legumes
  • Nuts (raw nuts are healthiest) 
  • Seeds 
  • Whole grains
  • Fish (fatty fish in particular, like salmon and albacore tuna)
  • Lean meat
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Olive oil
  • Green tea
  • Turmeric and other herbal teas

Fruits and vegetables are essential to stave off depression, too. All veggies and fruits are good for the brain. When it comes to reducing depression, these natural foods stand out:

  • Avocados
  • Peaches
  • Oranges
  • Dates
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Squash

Just as important as increasing natural foods to fight depression is decreasing junk food and processed foods. Thinking in terms of substituting rather than eliminating often reduces cravings and makes the changes psychologically easier to accept. Examples of substitutions include:

  • Honey instead of refined sugar
  • Real, 100% maple syrup instead of the processed kind
  • Homemade granola bars instead of the store-bought kind that has a lot of sugar
  • Lean meats baked in the oven or grilled instead of deli meats
  • Whole grain bread and pasta instead of white/refined bread and pasta

What you eat has a direct impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Switching from unhealthy foods to natural and healthy foods for depression can help you beat depression and feel good again.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, December 31). Natural and Healthy Foods for Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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