Nutrition & Depression: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Eating healthy

Contrary to the common notion that depression is strictly based on a person’s biochemistry and emotions, nutrition is also a significant factor in the onset, duration, and severity of depression. Hence, it is safe to say that while there is no diet designed for depression, proper nutrition is vital to its overall treatment.

While receiving treatment from a psychiatrist, chiropractor, or therapist for your depression, here’s what to eat and what to avoid:

What to eat:


Protein-rich foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that enables the production of serotonin. Since we cannot make tryptophan on our own, we have to obtain it through our diet. Protein-rich foods are the best sources. Examples include turkey, chicken, lean beef, cheese, fish, milk, and soy products.


Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. It also stimulates the entry of the amino acid tryptophan to the brain. Hence, getting enough carbs is essential to the production of serotonin.

Low glycemic index (GI) foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are found to have a moderate yet lasting effect on mood, energy level, and brain chemistry. On the other hand, high GI foods such as sweets, white bread, potatoes, and white rice, have immediate but short-lived effects.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 is not only good for your heart but can also be beneficial for your brain, too. Incorporate more sources of omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, such as sardines, tuna, flaxseed, and walnuts.


  • B-complex vitamins. It is believed that the intake of B-vitamins, particularly B2 and B6, helped improved moods.
  • Folate. Low levels of folate are known to cause poor results in antidepressant therapy, which is mainly due to folate’s role in the brain’s metabolic pathways. Foods rich in folate include legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy greens, citrus fruits, etc.


  • Iron. Iron deficiency anemia can cause apathy, depression, and fatigue. Good sources of iron are red meats, organs, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Iodine. This mineral is vital to the energy metabolism of cerebral cells.
  • Zinc. According to research, zinc can help increase the efficacy of antidepressant therapy. It also helps protect brain cells from free radical damage.

What not to avoid

woman eating junk foodProcessed and refined food

Junk food, fast food, and highly-processed food are calorie-dense but low in nutrients. Not only do these foods increase the risk of obesity, but they can also increase the risk of depression as well as exacerbate its symptoms.


Alcohol can be a trigger for the symptoms of depression. Hence, it should not be used as a means to cope. Try to avoid alcohol as much as possible. Alternatively, limit your intake to one drink a day.

Trans fats

Trans fats can increase the risk of depression and worsen symptoms. Avoid foods rich in trans fats, such as frozen pizza, french fries, and fried chicken, among many others.

A healthy diet can do more good for your mind and body than a diet that’s composed of unhealthy foods. Therefore, although eating certain foods might not cure your depression, having a balanced diet is vital to your overall health.


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