Diet and Nutrition

Depression/Anxiety and Nutrition: Good Food for a Good Mood

January 11, 2017   /
Charlene Dubois, MPA, RD
Nutrition411 Staff

Good nutrition provides the foundation for a good mood, and is an important complement to medication and behavioral therapy in the treatment of depression. 

The role of nutrition
Just as a car runs better with the right fuel, your body functions better when it is fueled with the right nutrients, and you may feel better as a result. Studies on depression suggest that those with diets low in certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, and omega-3 fats, may be at greater risk for depression. In addition, researchers have found a link between high glycemic diets and depression in postmenopausal women, and a review of studies that examined diet and depression found individuals who consumed lower amounts of fruits and vegetables had higher odds of depression. 

You can use nutrition to help in your recovery. Consider these suggestions:

  • Try eating frequent small meals and snacks to maintain your energy level throughout the day.
  • Eat meals and snacks containing protein (meat, poultry, fish, cheese, eggs, legumes, and nuts) and carbohydrate (milk, fruit, bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes, and rice) at regular intervals each day.
  • Choose comforting foods as a way of self-nurturing, but do not go overboard on refined carbohydrate foods such as desserts, sodas, breads and pasta.
  • Include foods from all food groups daily, including: 
    • Dairy and meat for iron and B12
    • Milk, salmon, and tuna for vitamin D
    • Grains and greens for thiamine, vitamin B6, and folate
    • Tuna, salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed for omega-3 fatty acids
  • Use a daily multivitamin if you are unable to eat adequately from all food groups.
  • Drink nutritional supplements, such as Ensure®, as a temporary source of nutrients, if food seems unappealing.

References and recommended readings

Alpert JE, Mischoulon D, Nierenberg AA, Fava M. Nutrition and depression: focus on folate. Nutrition. 2000;16:544-546. doi:

Eussen SJ, Ferry M, Hininger I, Haller J, Matthys C, Dirren H. Five year changes in mental health associations with vitamin B12 /folate status of elderly Europeans. J Nutr Health Aging. 2002;6(1):43-50. Accessed January 5, 2016.

Gangwisch JE., Hale L, Garcia L, et al. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nut. 2015;102:454-463. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.103846.

Khoraminya N, Tehrani-Doost M, Jazayeri S, et al. Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013;47(3):271-5. doi:10.1177/0004867412465022.

Lai JS, Hiles S, Bisquera A, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99:181-197. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069880.

Osher Y, Belmaker RH. Omega‐3 Fatty Acids in Depression: A Review of Three Studies. CNS Neurosci. Ther. 2009;15(2):128-133. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00061.x.

Parker G, Gibson NA, Brotchie H, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(6):969-978. Accessed January 5, 2016.