Updated: 05/17/2022 – 11:17
Especially good whole foods
Depression: diet can have a positive effect on the psyche
About 350 million people worldwide live with depression. In addition to medical treatment, a proper diet can also contribute to improvement. Here you can find out which food components have a positive effect on the psyche.
The way we eat has an impact on our psyche and therefore our mood. This also applies to depression and depressive moods. Because what we eat can have both a positive and negative impact on mental illness. A recent overview study, linking seven studies that have already been published, concludes that a diet based on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and little animal fat can have a positive effect on depression. Find out here what specifically belongs to a conscious diet against depression.
Diet and depression: is there a link?
Diet plays a role in many physical illnesses. It can aggravate and improve discomfort and symptoms. But does this also apply to mental illnesses like depression? In fact, more and more research is being done on mental illness and eating behavior. Both depression and depressive mood states and their development should be able to be positively and negatively influenced by nutrition.
The fact that nutrition can influence our psyche is due in part to the fact that certain micronutrients, such as B vitamins and folic acid, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, are important for brain and nerve function. If they are missing, it can affect mood and mental well-being. Similarly, the body needs certain building blocks of food to form happy hormones like serotonin.
Furthermore, depression is said to be related to inflammation in the body and the intestinal flora. Both are influenced by the foods we eat.
What diet helps with depression?
Nutrition against or to prevent depression also follows the principles of choosing healthy, complete and balanced foods that contain as many different nutrients as possible. Sugar and other highly processed foods should be minimized as they are pro-inflammatory foods. For this, you need to eat plenty of whole, plant-based foods that are anti-inflammatory and high in nutrients and fiber. Dietary fiber is important, among other things, for our intestinal flora and its bacterial cultures, which can influence the psyche.
Dietary advice to prevent depression, published in 2016 by transnational scientists, provides useful guidance:
- Follow a traditional diet, such as the Mediterranean diet.
- Include a high proportion of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds in your daily diet
- Look out for omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as part of the diet (omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory), for example in the form of flaxseed oil, walnuts, and fatty fish.
- Whenever possible, swap unhealthy foods for healthy, nutritious foods.
- Limit your intake of highly processed foods, convenience foods, fast foods, and processed confectionery and baked goods.
Good for the mind: foods that have a positive effect on mood
In addition to the basic nutrition guidelines against depression, you can also pay attention to foods that have a positive effect on the psyche. Due to certain nutrients, such as tryptophan, vitamin B6, vitamin D or magnesium, these help increase the messenger substances dopamine and serotonin in the body, also known as hormones of happiness.
Foods that can contribute to a positive mood include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark chocolate and cocoa without sugar
- Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale
- High quality natural dairy products such as quark
Conclusion on nutrition in depression.
Diet alone cannot cure mental illness such as depression or depressed mood. Therefore, it should not be viewed as a substitute for medical therapy. However, eating behavior can contribute as a complementary measure to mental and physical well-being and thus complement therapy significantly. Similarly, it supports a healthy weight, which can be thrown off balance in depression, both ways.
In addition to food choices, regular meals, meal planning, mindful eating, and cooking and eating together in company can also help with depression. Conscious eating behavior supports a healthy weight, balanced food and nutrient choices, and therefore overall mental and physical well-being.
On our depression topics page, we provide information about mental illness, its symptoms, and treatment options. You can also find the right nutrition or diet for your needs on our extensive diet topic page.
Opie RS, Itsiopoulos C, Parletta N, Sanchez-Villegas A, Akbaraly TN, Ruusunen A, Jacka FN. Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 April; 20 (3): 161-171. doi: 10.1179/1476830515Y.0000000043. Epub 2016 Mar 2. PMID: 26317148, Accessed 2021-02-18