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Best Diet for Depression


Updated September 01, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Best Diet for Depression
What is the best type of diet for depression?

In a general sense, the best diet for depression is one that provides adequate nutrition and promotes general health.

Specific recommendations based upon the existing medical literature include:

  • Cut down or eliminate processed sugar and caffeine: When the diets of people with depression were examined, it was found that depressed people eat more sugar than the general population. Another small study found that when sugar and caffeine were removed from the diet, people with depression experienced improvements within a week. Also, when sugar and caffeine were reintroduced to their diet their symptoms worsened. In addition, a few studies have found that high caffeine consumption (the equivalent of about 6 to 19 5-ounce cups of coffee a day) was linked with depression.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption has been found to be more common in depressed people than in the general population, and it is associated with worse outcomes. Alcohol also may influence serotonin, a chemical in the brain associated with mood regulation.
  • Get adequate nutrition: You should eat a variety of foods in order to obtain adequate amounts of all the nutrients essential for health. In particular, make sure you are getting enough of the B-complex vitamins, as these are essential for making the chemical messengers in the brain that regulate mood. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, liver, dairy products, eggs, potatoes, bananas, lentils, whole grains, tempeh, beans, green vegetables, nutritional yeast, brewer's yeast, and molasses.
  • Get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids: Available data suggest that either a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids or an imbalance in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is associated with increased rates of depression. Experts recommend eating two to three servings per week of smaller cold-water fish -- such as herring, mackerel, wild salmon or sardines -- in order to obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids. You should, however, avoid larger fish and farmed fish, which may contain toxins such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls. Alternatively, you may obtain omega-3 fatty acids by taking a fish oil supplement daily, by consuming flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed meal, or by eating a handful of walnuts each day.


Schnieder, Craig and Erica Lovett. "Chapter 9 - Depression." Integrative Medicine. Ed. David Rakel. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Saunder Elsevier, 2007. Accessed: May 28, 2008.

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