It’s widely known that having a healthy diet can make you feel better, and depression is no exception. Even if having a healthy diet doesn’t relieve all depression symptoms, it certainly can’t hurt. Some experts give suggestions on what foods and drinks you should ingest or skip to improve your depression.
Trudy Scott, a food mood expert, nutritionist and president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, recently published her book “The Antianxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help you Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood and End Cravings.”
“An Australian study looking at both anxiety and depression among women found a link between better diet quality and better mental health,” she stated in an email, with quotes pulled from her book. “Among the participants, those who ate a whole foods diet of vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, and grass-fed lean red meat and lamb had a lower risk of both anxiety and depression.”
The “traditional” diet referred to above is compared to a usual Western diet that consists mainly of “processed, refined, fried, and sugary foods and beer.” Even the women who had a supposedly healthy diet were more depressed. This diet included “fruit, salads, fish, tofu, beans, nuts, yogurt, and red wine.”
Jennifer Cassetta, a clinical nutritionist and the founder of the “Health and the City” program, said in an email that controlling blood sugar levels can be key to fighting depression.
“Steadying the blood sugar is the best way to avoid energy dips that can lead to feelings of depression,” Cassetta said. “The best way to start this is to specifically avoid drinks that spike the blood sugar like sodas, sugary juices, iced teas with added sugar and even ‘fancy’ coffee drinks like frappucinos. Instead hydrate with water or sparkling water and add natural flavors like lemon, lime or cucumber. Brew herbal teas and add a light sweetener like agave nectar or a touch of honey.”
Susan Schenck, an author of two food-related books, including “The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit and Planet,” said in an email that fish is important in relieving symptoms of depression.
“Small oily fish (such as sardines, mackerel, and herring) is the most important food for fighting and preventing depression,” Schenck said. “They are rich in omega-3s, DHA, and EPA needed by the brain. Studies show that people who eat fish are the happiest in the world.”
Dr. Will Aguila, a weight loss specialist and author of the book “Why I Don’t Lose Weight,” said in an email that eating more food with vitamin B12, like fish, chicken, pork and dairy products, can help with depression treatment. Increasing folate intake is also a suggestion.
“Folate is a form of a B vitamin and found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and asparagus,” Aguila said. “You can also obtain folate by eating beans and lentils which are also a good source of protein giving you twice the benefit. Low folate levels have been associated with elevated depressive symptoms in women.”
He added that vitamin D should be added to your diet through a supplement, certain foods like sardines, or by catching some sun rays.
Scott, Trudy. Email interview. July 20, 2011. She appeared in another article of mine on a similar topic about diet and mental health in general: https://www.empowher.com/mental-health/content/how-have-healthy-diet-and-improve-your-state-mind?page=0,0
Cassetta, Jennifer. Email interview. July 19, 2011.
Schenck, Susan. Email Interview. July 19, 2011.
Aguila, Will. Email interview. July 20, 2011.
Reviewed July 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith