There is evidence that a symbiotic relationship exists between food and depression. Although an association can be made between diet and mood, studies are still examining whether or not a poor diet may actually cause depression or worsen existing symptoms. A poor diet can be described as one that is high in ultra-processed foods (UPFs), saturated fat (especially from high-fat dairy or fried foods), processed meat, refined grains, and added sugars (especially those from sugary-sweetened beverages).
On the other hand, studies have shown that consuming less processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish are associated with a decreased risk of depression. Eating patterns to consider are vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, traditional Japanese, and Nordic diets. Although strict adherence to one of these diets is not necessary, it would be beneficial to increase the amount of plant-based foods consumed, as many people are often not consuming sufficient amounts of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
There are mixed findings on the positive effects on mood from individual nutrients, like B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. Since research is not conclusive on the use of these supplements, it is best to eat a varied diet in order to get all of these nutrients from whole foods.
Written by Victoria Luera, Lone Star Circle of Care Registered Dietitian. Submitted by Ashley Wild.