Nutrition Articles

A Healthy Diet for Dealing with Depression

The Link Between Food & Your Mood

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DO consume plenty of Omega-3s. While some studies have failed to show a connection between omega-3 fatty acid intake and depression symptoms, others suggest that consuming more of these heart-healthy fats may help with depression-especially when taken along with conventional antidepressants. Epidemiological research also shows that populations who eat more fish have lower rates of depression. Foods rich in omega-3s include cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel), soybeans, walnuts, eggs fortified with omega-3s, and ground flaxseed.

DO cut back on caffeine. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, making you feel anxious and interfering with sleep patterns. Consume no more than 200- 300 milligrams of caffeine daily.

DO avoid alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and illicit drugs can interact with antidepressant medications and other over-the-counter medications. For many, depression and substance abuse are already closely connected. If you think you have a problem, seek help. Addictive or abusive behaviors can prevent you from a full recovery.

DO eat plenty of "good" carbohydrates, which increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. High serotonin levels can improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression. At minimum, aim for at least 130 grams of carbohydrates each day. And try to forgo the processed, "white" carbs (white rice, white bread, white flour, etc.) in favor of less processed foods like whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread and whole grain cereals), fruits and veggies.

Losing Weight While Dealing with Depression
If you are trying to balance weight loss with depression treatment, the following tips will help you do it safely without making your condition worse:
  • Inform your health care provider before beginning a diet for weight loss.
  • With your doctor’s approval, proceed with a slow-paced weight loss plan, aiming to lose no more than 0.5 pounds each week.
  • Follow a balanced diet that meets all of your nutritional needs for protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. A registered dietitian in your area can provide an individualized plan to meet your nutritional needs based on your medical history and treatment therapy.
  • Carefully evaluate your mood changes while dieting and seek immediate treatment if you notice any changes.
Depression is difficult for anyone who lives with it. It can sap your motivation to care for yourself, eat well, and exercise—the very things that can help you feel better. While dietary changes alone aren't a surefire way to prevent or treat depression, they can help you feel better when combined with the treatment options that your health care provider recommends.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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