Is Depression linked to Diet?

Published on 12 November 2021

A famous quote from the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food” reflects the importance of diet in disease. This quote is highly relevant in current times, when eating fresh and healthy foods has taken a backseat in the rush for time.

We know that a healthy diet can improve physical health. Can diet influence mental health and affect conditions such as depression? Read below to know more.

Depression and Diet

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms of feeling low, poor concentration, excessive guilt and suicidal thoughts. Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy are the primary treatments for depression.

Research indicates that depression could be influenced by diet. Though studies are not equivocal with regards to the benefit of particular diets in depression, here are some dietary guidelines that could help to keep up the mood.

Nutrients good for brain health

Certain nutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and improve brain function. Foods that contain these nutrients, for example, vitamin D, the B group of vitamins, folic acid and micronutrients such as magnesium and zinc could should be included in the diet.

Dietary patterns to improve brain function

Beside stressing on the above nutrients, a healthy eating pattern with a balanced diet may make a difference. The Mediterranean diet and the Japanese diet have been studied in depression with positive results. The Mediterranean diet consists of a predominantly vegetarian diet with plenty of fresh foods and vegetables, olive oil, beans, nuts and fish while the Japanese diet contains fruit, soy products, vegetables and green tea.

Foods to avoid

Sweets, refined grains and deep-fried foods are considered as pro-inflammatory foods. These could adversely affect the mood and should therefore be avoided.

Combination of diet with other lifestyle chances

The maximal advantage of diet on depressive symptoms is likely to be when it is coupled with other lifestyle changes such as adequate physical activity, stress reduction techniques, good sleep hygiene and social interactions, and of course, psychotherapy and medications as needed.


Lang U, E, Beglinger C, Schweinfurth N, Walter M, Borgwardt S: Nutritional Aspects of Depression. Cell Physiol Biochem 2015;37:1029-1043. doi: 10.1159/000430229

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