A healthy and balanced diet may be part of your comprehensive treatment plan for depression. It won’t replace traditional depression treatment, but it can support your overall care plan.
Talk to your doctor before you make any dietary changes.
How Diet & Depression Are Connected
Approximately 280 million individuals around the world are affected by depression. Treatments such as medication and therapeutic approaches can reduce or relieve symptoms.
Improving your overall health and lifestyle through dietary changes can help to boost your energy and support your health. When you feel better overall, your depression symptoms are likely to be less pronounced.
One study found that a well-balanced diet with high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, olive oil, and antioxidants was associated with a decreased risk of depression. A diet with high intake of red or processed meat, high-fat dairy products, processed grains, sweets, butter, and potatoes was associated with an increased risk of depression.
Many of the foods that have a positive influence on emotions, moods, and a feeling of well-being are readily available. Since eating well is an essential part of healthy living, focusing on foods that support overall well-being plays an important role in helping depression.
Foods That May Help With Depression
Many of the foods that promote overall wellness are available in farmer’s markets and most grocery stores. You can even try growing some in your yard or on your balcony.
These superfoods are filled with immune-boosting and anti-cancer nutrients. Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are top foods that fight against inflammation. A 2015 study confirms that severe depression is linked with inflammation, making leafy greens a good choice to help with depression.
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, known to offer protection against free radicals. Antioxidants also help to prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function. A specific antioxidant flavonoid anthocyanin is associated with a reduced risk of depression.
Like berries, apples are loaded with antioxidants. This means that they can help keep the body’s cells healthy and happy.
Apples are a quick choice for great fiber and crunch. They are a satisfying snack that can help to balance blood sugar levels.
Bananas contain B6, which helps the body create serotonin. Since serotonin helps to balance mood and enhance how you feel, this food could potentially help improve some depressive symptoms.
Bananas are also loaded with fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
Avocados contain tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin. Avocados are also loaded with healthy fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins.
Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. These tiny seeds get their name from the Mayan word for strength.
Mushrooms help to lower blood sugar and keep moods on an even keel. They also promote intestinal health.
According to some research studies, approximately 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. This explains why promoting gut health is key to unlocking a happy state of mind.
These potatoes have high levels of magnesium, which is essential to reducing anxiety and promoting healthy sleep. Not only are they delicious, but magnesium can also help to reduce stress.
Beans, legumes, and peas are terrific sources of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. These nutritious and cost-effective foods can help to promote healthy digestion.
Beans, as well as seafood, nuts, and seeds, are a good source of selenium. Studies show a link between poor moods and low selenium levels.
Walnuts are rich in antioxidants, making them one of the best choices to promote overall wellness.
This is a terrific source of antioxidants, possibly even more so than blueberries. One 30-day study showed that eating dark chocolate had a positive impact on mood. Cocoa contains polyphenols, which are shown to positively affect anxiety and enhance a feeling of calm.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Eating fish like salmon and supplementing the diet with fish oil are strongly linked with improved diet and mental health.
Omega-3s may work because they can easily travel in the brain and impact molecules that regulate emotions there. They are also known to have an anti-inflammatory action, which may help to relieve depression and support heart health.
The Bigger Picture About Diet
With these healthy food choices in mind, it’s wise to take a broader view by considering one’s entire diet. Specific nutritional approaches may have a positive effect on depression, such as the Mediterranean diet, fermented foods, raw foods, and foods rich in antioxidants.
This way of eating is based on dietary patterns found in Mediterranean countries. The emphasis is on plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts.
Healthy fats are olive oil and avocado. Herbs and spices enhance flavor. The Mediterranean diet involves eating fish about twice per eat and limiting the consumption of poultry and red meat.
Studies have found that people who follow the Mediterranean diet seem to have lower levels of depression. This is also a diet that is renowned for being heart-healthy and supporting a healthy weight.
Studies show a relationship between fermented food and lower instances of depression. Fermented foods are favored as a way to promote positive intestinal health and reduce overall inflammation.
Here are some common fermented foods:
- Pickled vegetables
Eating more foods in their natural, raw form offers a greater benefit for overall health, including mood.
Raw foods can provide the closest to natural food value, as they are whole and unprocessed. Many people prefer to buy organic foods to get the healthiest options that are grown without chemicals.
Recent findings from the University of Otago show that raw fruit and vegetables provide more support for mental health.
Research studies from the University of Otago in New Zealand confirm that people who eat raw fruits and vegetables have fewer symptoms of depression and enjoy a more positive mood and greater overall life satisfaction.
The top raw foods listed to boost mental health include carrots, bananas, apples, leafy greens, grapefruit, citrus, berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit.
Raw foods that support overall health include the following:
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Raw nuts and nut butters
- Sprouted beans, seeds, and grains
- Green food powders
A diet rich in antioxidants is ideal for helping with depression, as it supports both emotional and physical health. In addition to those listed above, aim to get these foods in your diet:
- Green and black tea
Foods to Avoid if You Have Depression
As you add more healthy foods to your diet, such as raw foods or those loaded in antioxidants, it’s wise to take some items out of your diet.
Look for ways to reduce or avoid foods that are full of preservatives. Start by reducing foods that are heavily processed as well as those that contain saturated fats.
Aim to reduce your intake of refined sugar. Steer clear of simple carbohydrates, such as cake and cookies. Swap candy bars for fresh fruit.
Replace sodas and high-sugar juice with water or unsweetened tea. For a bit of flavor, add some sliced strawberries or cucumbers to your water.
An Overall Lifestyle Change
While there is not a single diet that treats depression, your food choices can make a big difference in how you feel. By prioritizing a healthy, balanced diet, you’re likely to feel better overall, and this can help to reduce symptoms of depression.
Experiment with more raw foods and whole foods. Emphasize seasonal fruits and vegetables. Explore new options, and you may find that a healthy diet helps to boost your mood.
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