No diet can cure depression, and research hasn’t shown that a particular eating plan can erase the symptoms.
But the food you put on your plate could have an indirect effect on your mood. To stay healthy and feel good, you need to get the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and fiber.
Here's how to get started:
- Choose a sensible plan. Watch your calories and fat. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And yes, it’s OK to treat yourself from time to time.
- Stay away from extreme fad diets. Avoid meal plans that radically restrict what you can eat. It’s a bad idea to cut out entire food groups, whether they’re carbs, fats, or sugars. While extreme diets may help you lose weight at first, they’re very hard to stick to in the long run, and usually they're not so healthy.
- Get on a schedule. Eat at the same times each day to keep things predictable. It’s best to have three meals a day with two snacks in between. Don’t skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Follow your doctor’s advice. If you have a health condition that changes what you can eat, you should stick to the rules your doctor or dietitian laid out for you. It's key to know what you can and can’t put on your plate.
- Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. They can cause depression and affect how well antidepressants or other medicines for mood work. Also, many people who are depressed battle substance abuse, too. If you think you have a problem, you need to get help. Addiction can keep you from recovering from your depression.
- Cut back on caffeine. It’s a stimulant, which means it can make you anxious and keep you up at night. So limit how much soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate you have.
- Ask your doctor about omega-3 fatty acids. Some research has shown that these fats can help with mood, but experts need to do more studies to know for sure. Some fish, walnuts, soybeans, flaxseed, and other foods have omega-3s, as do some supplements. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much of them you should get every day.
- Vitamins. Some vitamins can help to boost mood. Vitamin D, found in salmon, egg yolks, and some dairy products, can play a role in seasonal depression symptoms. Talk to your doctors about which vitamins may be helpful for you.
- Tell your doc about changes in your appetite. Depression or its treatment can sometimes affect how hungry you feel. That can mean weight gain or loss. If you’ve noticed a change in your appetite, your doctor can help you get back on track.