Good Diet for Depression Sufferers - Useful Foods and Nutrition

What is a good diet for depression sufferers?

Diet and nutrition are inextricably linked to virtually all health conditions, and this is no different for depression.

Clinical depression is a condition that affects mind and body, and it is manifested by the inability of the individual to enjoy life’s pleasures, a marked disinterest in day-to-day activities, a deep sense of helplessness, hopelessness and despair, as well as self-defeating thoughts that life is not worth living. These are accompanied by physical symptoms such as weight gain / loss, insomnia, etc.

When these symptoms persist beyond a period of two weeks or more uninterruptedly, the person is diagnosed as clinically depressed. When mild, these signs and symptoms permit the patient to remain functional in life with additional effort; however, when severe, these symptoms can render the affected person highly dysfunctional and incapable of day-to-day living, leading to fatalities like suicide.

Today, there is increasing research evidence that points to the fact that food and mood are inextricably interwoven and definitely linked. Though no specific diet for depression has been prescribed to alleviate the condition, studies in this realm clearly indicate that certain foods definitely ease depressive symptoms and provide relief in cases of clinical depression.

This is because changes in diet bring about a corresponding change in brain dynamics, both chemically and physiologically, which in turn can alter an individual’s mood and general mental outlook on life. So, what are some elements of a good diet for depression sufferers?


A diet rich in essential nutrients which support and bring about wellness, growth and repair to the body is the first step towards eating right for depression. Essential nutrients include minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, protein and fat. Any deficiency in any of these groups leads to the breakdown of the body, leading to illness and also depression. A good diet for depression relief and treatment, like any health-promoting dietary protocol, must be well-balanced.

Antioxidants follow next on the recommended diet list to alleviate depressive symptoms. Antioxidants fight the effects of free radicals in the body (which cause ageing and dysfunction) and restore good health and replenishment to the body and mind, especially the brain, which is known to be particularly at risk for free radical damage. Foods rich in antioxidants include those that are rich in the following:

  • Beta-carotene - found in broccoli, apricots, carrots, peaches, spinach, and pumpkin.

  • Vitamin C - found in grapefruit, peppers, potatoes, blueberries, tomato, and strawberries.

  • Vitamin E - found in nuts, seeds, wheat germ, margarine, and vegetable oils.

Other nutrients like folate and vitamin B12, which is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, have also been found to help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Folate is found in nuts, fruits, green vegetables, etc. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products that are low fat and lean, such as fish and dairy products.

Vitamin D and selenium deficiencies have also been found to be linked to depression. Hence, depressive patients are recommended to get at least 600 IU of vitamin D each day to help alleviate depressive symptoms; this can be from a good diet for depression relief, or from exposure of bare skin to sunlight.

The mineral selenium has been found to be essential for wellness and good health. Hence, 200 micrograms per day from daily food intake is recommended for a diet for depression patients. Selenium is found in beans and legumes, low fat dairy products, lean meat, seafood, whole grains, etc.


Carbohydrates have been linked to the mood-enhancing brain chemical, serotonin. When carbohydrate-rich foods such as breads, pasta, cereals, etc are consumed, serotonin levels in the body rise, alleviating anxiety and providing a calming effect to the depressed individual.

Hence, depressive persons are recommended a diet for depression relief that includes carbohydrates, though it is important to pick non-sugary carbohydrates like legumes, whole grains, fruits, etc, which are healthy, non-fattening, as well as high in dietary fiber and many other nutrients.

Please stay away from refined sugars and junk foods. They not only harm health in many ways, but also cause blood sugar levels to flunctuate violently, which can result in feelings of depression when those levels dip. To make up for it, people end up overeating, causing obesity and a whole host of other health issues.


A diet for depression relief rich in protein boosts levels of tyrosine, an amino acid, which in turn increases levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This makes a depressed individual alert and enhances concentration, besides providing an instant energy boost.

Omega–3 fatty acids and fish oil

Recent studies have validated that a deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids is definitely linked to depression. A sample research study has shown that societies that include a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet have a higher incidence of depression than those that consume larger or ample quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Indeed, omega 3 fatty acids must form a critical component of any good diet for depression patients and sufferer.

Chief sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like anchovies, mackerel, sardines, salmon, and tuna, as well as fish oil. Plant-based omega 3 fatty acids (mainly alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and green leafy vegetables.

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