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What to Eat When Depressed

A healthy young woman eats a salad and drinks a smoothie.
You may not be exactly what you eat, but food choices can certainly affect your mood and energy level.

Chips, cookies and other refined carbs are a bit like drugs and alcohol in that they offer a quick-hit of feel good chemicals, but then take you into a hole. In other words, they always take more than they give.

So, if your goal is to feel happy, level and motivated, it makes sense that those are foods to indulge in sparingly.

But that’s only one example of how nutrition can affect how you feel. Keep reading for tips on eating to boost your mood.

Spinach, Asparagus, Beans and Eggs

These foods are all high in folate. This is important because, according to the National Institutes of Health, low folate status is linked to depression. What’s more, people low in folate have a statistically poor response to antidepressants.

Interestingly, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to low folate levels—just one more way that addiction can lead to poor physical and mental health.


Berries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of any food. Emerging research shows that a diet high in antioxidants can reduce symptoms of depression and boost mood.

Walnuts, Chia Seed and Flax Seeds

Numerous studies have shown how omega-3 fatty acids can reduce depression symptoms and your brain depends on these acids to function properly. Wild-caught fish and eggs are also good sources of omega-3s.


Probiotics are an important part of gut health and readily available from real food sources like kefir, kombucha, miso, raw cheese, fermented vegetables and some yoghurts. If a lot of those foods look mysterious to you, kefir is a good place to start. It’s available in the dairy section of most grocery stores and makes a great smoothie base. Just throw in a handful of greens, some berries and some ice. If you want to get fancy (and boost omega-3s), add chia seeds and flaxseeds.


Junk food comes up short in a lot of areas, but one of the worst things about a diet high in sweets and snacks is the lack of protein. Protein supplies our bodies with the essential amino acids needed to support proper health. It’s also a great source of energy.

What Not to Eat When Depressed

The foods to avoid are the same foods we know are bad for us in general.

At the top of the list? Refined carbs. That includes all the foods that many of us love the most—cookies, chips, candy, cake, pancakes made with white flour, sugary muffins and more. That’s because they’ll spike your blood sugar for a short time, then your energy levels and mood will crash.

And you may not be any safer with the fake stuff. Aspartame blocks the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, causing mood dips and insomnia.

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