A photo of watercress on a cutting board

Foods for a Good Mood

By Christine Ferguson, PhD, RD, CSG, NCHPAD Nutrition Research Coordinator

Research has shown that eating foods with specific nutrients may reduce the risk of depression and can even lessen the effects of existing depression.

Recent research published in the World Journal of Psychiatry even reported a way to measure certain nutrients to create an antidepressant food score, or AFS. The AFS ranks foods based on their ability to promote recovery from depression symptoms.

Many of these foods that score high on the AFS are already recommended under the US dietary guidelines. You may notice that most of the top foods include green leafy vegetables, other fruits/vegetables, organ meats and seafood.

Check out the top-ranking antidepressant foods below along with a couple recipes that include several antidepressant foods:

Antidepressant animal foods

• Liver and organ meats (spleen, kidneys or heart)
• Poultry giblets
• Oyster
• Clam
• Mussels
• Octopus
• Crab
• Tuna
• Smelt

Antidepressant plant foods

Green leafy
• Watercress
• Spinach
• Mustard, turnip or beet greens
• Swiss chard
• Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley)
• Chicory greens
• Kale or collards
• Dandelion greens

• Peppers (bell, serrano, jalapeno)
• Pumpkin
• Cauliflower
• Kohlrabi
• Red cabbage
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Butternut squash

• Pummelo
• Acerola (acerola cherry)
• Papaya
• Lemon
• Strawberry

Article Citation: LaChance LR, Ramsey D. Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018;8(3):97-104. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97.

Watercress Salad

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes


  • 2 cups watercress
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Segments from ½ pummelo
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 ounces torn fresh mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons pre-sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Lemon wedge, for serving

Salad Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed or minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper


  1. Assemble the salad on a platter with the watercress, baby spinach, pummelo segments, avocado and mozzarella.
  2. For dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk in small bowl, or combine in sealed jar and shake.
  3. Drizzle with some of the dressing and top with the almonds and basil. Season to taste with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.

Adapted from Love & Lemons and Gimme Some Oven

Tender Liver, Peppers & Onions

Serves 4

Prep time:15 minutes (+ additional time for marinating)

Cook time: 15 minutes


  • 12 ounces beef liver, sliced
  • 1 cup buttermilk (can use other milk options)
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Optional: Cooked brown rice, whole-wheat rolls, or whole-wheat pasta to serve


  1. First, add sliced beef liver to a bowl. Pour buttermilk on top. Soak in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour up to overnight.
  2. Once beef has soaked, remove from buttermilk. Pat dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with garlic powder, pepper and sea salt. Discard buttermilk.
  3. In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add in sliced onions. Cook for 3 minutes and then add sliced peppers.
  4. Cook onions and peppers until tender. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from skillet.
  5. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add seasoned beef liver to the pan.
  6. Sear on both sides for about 2 to 3 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Add onions back to pan for 1 minute to heat up.
  7. Finally, serve beef liver, pepper and onions and top with fresh parsley.

Adapted from Organically Addison