5 Foods that can help with Anxiety and Depression

Have you ever felt the crushing weight of depression? It’s lonely and overwhelming – and talking about it with friends, colleagues and loved ones can often make us feel exposed and vulnerable.

I found myself in this position recently, and I knew I needed to do something about it. I was disappointed to discover that my doctor’s first suggestion was anti-depressants; shouldn’t I try therapy or some other means first I asked? I was talked out of this due to its expense! I consequently left empty handed.

As an advocate of holistic therapies, medication didn’t sit right with me and I don’t believe it is a long term solution to a healthy mind (and body). So, I set out to find another way to try and overcome this ‘rough patch’ I was going through.

We all know the power of nutrition. Food nourishes our bodies in so many amazing ways and by upping our dose of certain nutrients it can improve our overall wellbeing and importantly give us energy to face the world each day. It is increasingly becoming known that nutrition is a major player in mental health as well as physical health.

Here are 5 suggestions to try if you want to boost your mood and assist you in overcoming anxiety and depression.

  1. Oily fish – the benefits of fish oil are well known, the key fatty acids in fish oil are the omega 3s which have enormous health benefits. They are an anti-inflammatory, compared to omega 6 (common in our modern diet) which are pro-inflammatory. Inflammation is linked to many modern diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and also depression and anxiety. We can draw experience from countries that eat a lot of fish (e.g. Iceland and Japan) as we know they also have the lowest rates of depression and anxiety in the world. Our brain needs these omega -3s as they form components of the structural membranes in our brain cells. So try to include fish like salmon or sardines at least twice a week in your diet, or perhaps supplement with a quality fish oil.
  2. Raw Cacao – chocolate makes us feel happy, not only is it delicious but components in chocolate actually stimulate the release of happy chemicals (such as serotonin) in the body. Often chocolate confectionary is combined with a lot of sugar; the sugar is not going to be helpful if we are trying to level out our mood. Raw chocolate – Cacao, gives us these pure benefits without nasty additives so add it to your smoothies, baking, make your own fudge, and you will get the benefits of a natural high, as well as nourishing your body with this rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  3. Chia Seeds – If we are in a constant state of stress, as is the case when suffering anxiety or depression, we need to really up the nutrient content of our food. Super foods such as chia seeds provide so much nutrition in one tiny package, so much so there is too much to list here but including; protein (a complete source), fibre, minerals – calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and omega-3s.  Add chia to smoothies, muesli, or just with water and lemon for a refreshing drink, allowing the seeds to soak before consuming, this will provide you with greater benefit.
  4. Acai – Take note from the happy Brazilian people if you have ever been to this amazing country you will know what I mean! The incredible Acai berry originates from the Amazon of Brazil and boasts one of the highest antioxidant counts of all berries, as well as many vitamins and minerals. It is another one of those ‘superfoods’ which can help nourish us when we need it most.
  5. Herbal Tea (for two) – Herbal teas in themselves have health promoting properties but I think the biggest benefit we can gain from it is to share it! Take time out of the day to make a pot of tea and share a cup with a friendly ear, this can make the world of difference when you are suffering from depression and anxiety. Pick calming teas like camomile, peppermint, passionflower, valerian root, lemon - all known and used in history to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

It is important to aim for an overall healthy diet and ensure it consists of whole, natural, nutritious and unprocessed foods, this will help in the recovery from depression and anxiety. By eating this way it will be much easier for your body to absorb the key nutrients in the above foods.

Back to blog


Thanks for this very useful information.
Wondering where one can obtain ACAI from in NZ. Can we grow it here?? Thanks.

Shirley May Paterson

Great article Sarah, really informative and sensible sounding. How long would you suggest to soak chia seeds for please?


Awesome post, and one I saved. Totally agree with the Cacao, just dont have it too close to bed time… will keep you awake for awhile :P I find it really good for energy..


Thanks so much for this article – I had a very similar experience at the GP and heartened to hear of some natural nutritional support.


Another tea to possibly try is St John’s Wort. Among a host of interesting effects it works as a reuptake inhibitor for serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (common neurotransmitters which are important for things like mood and sleep) so it actually acts in a similar way to many anti-depressants, but with half as many side effects. It’s available from anywhere with a good tea selection. However it is a powerful plant and can have some very strong interactions, it should not be used with prescribed anti-depressants under any circumstances and should be avoided by women using hormonal contraceptives.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.