Which Diet Lowers The Risk of Depression? [Scientific Evidence]

Blog Mind Which Diet Lowers The Risk of Depression? [Scientific Evidence]

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9.28.2021 0 comments

Did you know that the food you eat can have a direct effect on your mood?

Eat junk food and an imbalanced diet, and you’re at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mood problems. Eat a healthy balance of good quality nutrients, and you’ll be much happier and more emotionally and mentally stable as a result [1]!

One group of researchers back in 2019 [2] conducted a systematic review of multiple studies that analyzed the effects diet had on mood. With more than 40 different studies under analysis, they found that adherence to a healthy diet—including one diet in particular, which we’ll discuss below—helped to protect against depression.

Why is that?

Well, think about the nutrients in junk food. Most of it is saturated fats, refined sugars, processed carbohydrates, and caffeine. A lot of these nutrients give you a temporary boost in energy or lift your mood, but only for a short period of time. They typically lead to an energy “crash” that causes you to feel even more tired or drained. Your mood also suffers as a result, and you end up more prone to depression because of the low-quality nutritional value of the food.

However, there are a few foods that can actually boost your mood:

Healthy complex carbohydrates. These increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that elevates your mood. Complex carbohydrates rich in fiber also provide you with a steady release of energy that will keep you active for hours after eating—rather than just minutes, as you get with simple and refined sugars. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are definitely depression-fighting foods!

Vitamin D. A lack of Vitamin D has been linked to higher rates of depression [3], which makes this micronutrient incredibly important. You can get more Vitamin D by spending time in the sun—just 30 minutes per day is all you need—or by eating Vitamin D-rich foods like milk, tofu, or fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are known brain boosters that will elevate your mood, combat anxiety, and even enhance blood flow to your brain. You can get more of these vital fatty acids by eating walnuts, flax seeds, fatty fish (like tuna, sardines, and salmon), and dark, leafy green veggies.

Selenium. This antioxidant is critical for your brain health, and a deficiency has been linked to higher rates of depression [4]. Getting more selenium in your diet—via legumes, whole grains, seafood, nuts, and lean meats—can help to balance your emotions and reduce your rate of depression.

You may be wondering, “What diet can I follow that gives me the best intake of healthy, high-quality foods, particularly these mood-boosting foods?”

You’ll be happy to know the answer is actually very simple. The diet to follow to fight off depression is one you’re already familiar with: the Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is an excellent one, incredibly well-balanced, with a wide range of high-quality foods. Best of all, it’s a very easy diet to follow.

Foods to Eat:

  • Vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, potatoes, herbs and spices, fish, olive oil, and seafood can all be consumed in abundance.

  • Poultry, yogurt, eggs, and cheese should be eaten in moderation.

  • Red meat should be eaten only rarely.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages or anything with processed or refined sugars

  • Processed meat

  • Refined oils and grains

  • Highly processed foods

  • Trans fats

What makes this diet so amazing is that it’s rich in all the mood-boosting foods we listed above, and it avoids all the foods that raise your risk of depression.


In the study we mentioned above, the one that found following a healthy diet led to lower rates of depression, the Mediterranean Diet was specifically cited as being excellent. Participants who adhered to the Mediterranean Diet were less likely to suffer from depression and had overall better mood.

But that’s not the only study highlighting this particular diet!

Another 2019 study published in PLOS One [5] mentioned a diet that followed a Mediterranean style pattern of eating, stating, “young adults with elevated depression symptoms can engage in and adhere to a diet intervention, and that this can reduce symptoms of depression.”

A 2018 article published by Harvard Medical School [6] referred to the diet as being “associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.” The article cited a 2017 study [7] that broke down exactly the nutrients that raised or lowered depression risk:

“A dietary pattern characterized by a high intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”

The Mediterranean Diet fits this pattern exactly! It’s high in all the good nutrients and avoids the majority of the unhealthy, depression causing nutrients. It’s highly regarded by experts and considered a well-balanced, well-rounded, natural diet that will provide you with all the food you need to be healthy—both physically and emotionally.

If you want to get your body and mind in the best possible shape, then the Mediterranean Diet may be just what you’re looking for!


[1] https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/about-food-and-mood/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30254236/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908269/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22500660/

[5] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222768

[6] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diet-and-depression-2018022213309

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178117301981


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