7 Mood-Boosting Foods Proven to Help With Depression and Anxiety

Updated on April 22, 2020
Megan Machucho profile image

Megan writes about health issues, among other topics. She writes about many of the health topics she has experienced and overcome firsthand.


Most of us have heard the saying “you are what you eat,” and know that it's true to some degree. Although a lot of other factors determine how much we weigh and what we look like, food plays a big role. The general consensus in the scientific community is that maintaining a healthy weight is 75% dependent on food and 25% on exercise. But did you know that food also plays a part in our emotions? On a cellular level, you need a balance of certain nutrients, and if that balance is off, you can feel off, too. Even if you routinely eat a healthy diet, certain foods can give you a boost if you’re feeling down.

But First, Foods to Avoid If You're Feeling Blue

The main idea here is to offer suggestions of foods you should eat to combat depression or anxiety. Before adding in any of those foods, however, it’s important to know which foods can make you feel worse, and which you should therefore avoid. If you are struggling emotionally, cut these foods from your diet:

  • Excess sugars
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Alcohol
  • Simple carbs (i.e. bread, white rice)

Most of us know these foods aren’t the best for us, but we often ironically turn to them when we are feeling down. These foods (and alcohol, obviously) can act almost like drugs—many people have a dependency on sugar or carbs, and don’t even realize until they go on an elimination diet and start suffering from withdrawal symptoms. If these foods are a staple of your diet, to avoid feeling even worse, cut them out gradually rather than going off of them cold turkey. To bypass withdrawal symptoms, a good rule of thumb is to cut down by 1 serving every 3 days.

7 Mood-Boosting Foods

Depression, anxiety, or short term negative emotions can wreak havoc on our health and our relationships. Its important to take action to be able to get to feeling like your normal self, and medication is not the only answer. Whether you are looking to make long term improvements to your diet, or are in need of a quick pick-me-up, try some of these foods and you might just feel a difference.


1. Chocolate

Often times, when people are caught looking like they’re having a bad day, one of the first suggestions offered to them is “eat some chocolate.” While eating large quantities of chocolate ever day can cause the opposite effect, a small amount of (preferably dark) chocolate every now and then can make us feel happier. Our body reacts to chocolate in the same way it does to serotonin, a hormone we produce naturally that improves our mood. The flavonoids in chocolate produce pre-serotonin, which causes this reaction. A few bites of chocolate can instantly make you feel a little better if you're feeling down.

2. Asparagus

Eating any vegetable is good for you and your mental health—one study suggests that eating enough fruits and veggies may decrease your chance of developing a mood disorder by as much as 62%. The chemistry in your brain must be balanced to ward off depression, and vegetables contribute to maintaining that balance. Folic acid, in particular, needs to be present in the body in sufficient quantities for you to feel happy. Asparagus contains high levels of folic acid, and when you eat a serving of it a few times a week you could start to feel better as that balance begins to be restored.


3. Avocado

Avocado has been touted as a superfood. Some of the oldest living human beings claim their secret to longevity is eating an avocado a day. There are all kinds of health benefits that come with avocados, such as the healthy fats and antioxidants they contain. They also contain tryptophan, a mood enhancing amino acid more commonly associated with turkey. Tryptophan promotes a feeling of well-being and relaxation. It can also help regulate sleep, and can be useful in combating sugar or carb addiction if consumed during the weaning off period.


4. Seaweed

In one study, seaweed consumption made a significant difference in whether or not pregnant women experienced depression. Popular in Japanese cuisine, is rich in many nutrients, notably potassium, magnesium, and iodine. Deficiencies in these nutrients, especially iodine and magnesium, have been linked to depression and anxiety. Seaweed can help replenish these nutrients that we don’t often take in regularly from other foods.


5. Blueberries

The topic of neurogenesis, or growing new brain cells, and the link it may have with curing depression, been explored in recent years. Although very complex, put simply the “Neurogenesis Theory” suggests that since your body is constantly regenerating brain cells but losing them at the same time, individuals who suffer from depression must be losing brain cells faster than they can be replaced. Berries, blueberries in particular, have been shown to potentially speed of neurogenesis. Apart from their ability to make new brain cells to make up for those lost, blueberries also contain flavonoids similar to chocolate that can improve your mood.


6. Nuts

Nuts may act in the same way that prescription antidepressants do, without the unwanted side effects and dependency that often come with those drugs. A ½ ounce serving of cashews contains 470mg of tryptophan, which may be enough to act on a therapeutic level. Cashews also contain magnesium, a common mineral deficiency that can cause depression. B Vitamins are also found in many nuts. B Vitamins have been shown to act as an energy booster, and some even prefer foods high in B Vitamins over caffeine for an afternoon slump. Walnuts may also be particularly beneficial when you’re feeling down—they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, another common deficiency that can lead to anxiety.

7. Yogurt

Yogurt is often touted for its health benefits, particularly for its high concentration of probiotics, which are “good” bacteria that may help maintain balance in the digestive system and ward off problems like diarrhea and constipation. Not only can those symptoms can be uncomfortable, but they can also cause depression if they are a chronic issue. Healthy probiotics can play a role in combating food cravings, which may be an issue whether you are just having a bad day or suffering from longer term emotional problems. When choosing yogurt, go for full-fat rather than low fat or sugar free varieties. Those can leave you feeling hungry, and artificial sugar can worsen depression or cause headaches.

A lot of things determine your mood and how you feel. Don’t let what you are eating or not eating contribute even more to your negative emotions. If you struggle with sugar or carb cravings, start working on a plan to slowly cut those out of your diet or to limit them. If you are having a bad day, try some of the foods suggested above, and continue incorporating them in to your diet a few times a week. They may make all the difference.

Have You Had Success With These Mood Boosting Foods?

Which of the foods below, if any, helps you feel better on a bad day?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 

      8 days ago from Joliet, Illinois

      You've mentioned some delicious foods :) blueberries especially are a super healthy food and I love asparagus too mmm.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 

      3 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I love most of these foods that you listed. Especially chocolate and asparagus. I will definitely have to put these mood swinging foods to the test and see how they will affect me. Thanks for sharing these wonderful hub with us readers.

    • Megan Machucho profile imageAUTHOR

      Megan Machucho 

      3 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      Thanks everyone for the feedback and suggestions! And yes, it's just as important to avoid the bad stuff. Sugar (from my morning mocha habit) seems to be my downfall lately!

    • Megan Machucho profile imageAUTHOR

      Megan Machucho 

      3 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      Great suggestions! We like them frozen, they taste like ice cream!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      Blueberries are good if one puts them in muffins or something delicious, preferably with lemon. In a pie they are amazing.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Seaweed? Too salty. I don't care for it at all. Love asparagus, and avocado in salads, sandwiches, or as guacamole, but not plain to just eat alone. Love blueberries, but not the commercial, huge ones; they seem to have had all the flavor bred out of them. But, oh, my...the wild ones found in the state of Maine..hard to find, and expensive when you do.

      And of course, chocolate goes without saying, and the darker, the better. I am a devout chocoholic! (White chocolate is not worthy of the name; to me, it just tastes like sweet grease, and no chocolate flavor!) ;-)

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      These should be called the super foods! Chocolate tops the list, naturally, but asparagus, avocado, and seaweed surprised me. We eat the other items on your list almost every day. Trying to absolutely avoid the no-nos! Thanks for the healthful info on these foods.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, caloriebee.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)