How Diet Affects Depression

Often, we’ll find that after we’ve had a rough day we crave unhealthy foods. It can be argued that this downswing in mood causes these cravings, but the opposite can also be said. Having a poor diet can lead to having more issues concerning mood and mental health than you may think. Look at the following ways that your diet may affect your depression.

Nutrient Deficiencies

If you’re eating food that’s low in beneficial nutrients but high in calories, you’re at a higher risk for worsening your mental well-being. In studies, it has been shown that a healthier diet sustained over long periods of time (12 weeks or more) tends to lessen the symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Some of the nutrients a poor diet may be missing, and what they do, are listed below.

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is typically obtained through sun exposure, but can be fortified with healthier diet choices. Vitamin D uplifts mood, typically.
  • Antioxidants: These are found in many plant-based foods, like berries. Antioxidants help the body eliminate natural wastes, which can cause stress if built up. Fresh fruits and vegetables in diets are shown to help reduce the stress-related symptoms of depression.
  • Protein: Proteins are used in the body to help growth and repair, but specific proteins like tryptophan can aid in relieving depression symptoms. The body uses tryptophan to create serotonin, the hormone responsible for feeling good.

Problems with Weight

People who tend to struggle with their weight normally have issues with mood affecting disorders, such as anxiety and depression. An unhealthy weight can lead to hormonal and immunological changes in the body, which can lead to depression if changes last too long. Eating a healthier diet can play a large part in weight management, and as such can affect a person’s overall happiness.

Consumption of Refined Foods

The consumption of refined and processed foods can lead to issues with depression. Fast food and junk food tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients, impacting both of the areas addressed prior in the article. The high calories lead to weight gain, while the lack of nutrients deprives the body of what it needs to create the hormones that help decrease the symptoms of depression.


The nutrients that these foods do provide tend to be refined carbs and sugars, which have been shown to provide a high amount of energy that isn’t sustained, leading to a crash. You may be familiar with them as “sugar highs” which are promptly followed by crashes.

Diet Isn’t Everything

While it can play a large part in mood, it’s important to remember that diet isn’t everything. To have good mental health, one needs a good diet, plenty of exercise, and good sleep. Even then, for those with moderate to severe depression, it may not be enough. There’s no shame in that, however. If you’re still suffering from signs of depression while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to seek professional help and treatment. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling, and how you’re treating your body, so that they can better help you reach a healthy state of mind.