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A proper diet in depression is important because there is a correlation between a diet low in valuable ingredients and the development of this disease. Therefore, a diet for depression, improving mood and reducing apathy, should be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium and iron.

Diet in depressionis considered by many to be of little importance, although today no one disputes that many diseases and physical disorders are related to the diet and the deficiency or excess of individual ingredients food. Of course, diet is not the only cause of depression, nor is it the only factor that can cure it, but diagnosing nutritional deficiencies and using the right nutrition that supports the nervous system can be very helpful and support psychotherapy and pharmacology.Depressionmanifests itself as mood disorders, negative thoughts, feelings of sadness, anxiety, anxiety, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite and decreased interest in previously pleasurable activities, as well as decreased concentration and cognitive abilities. Depression is associated with too low levels of neurotransmitters in the body - serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and GABA. Currently, 5-11 percent of adults worldwide suffer from depression, and the incidence of this disorder is increasing over the years. According to the World He alth Organization, depression is the fourth most serious he alth problem in the world. The treatment uses various types of pharmacological agents and psychotherapy, which often do not bring the desired result. Hence the growing interest in alternative methods of treating depression, including diet therapy. Increasingly, scientific publications emphasize the role of diet in depression - poor in vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, and rich in sugar and trans fats. It has been known for several decades that the consumption of food products affects the mood, and the mood we are in affects our food choices.

The role of diet in the treatment and prevention of depression

Effect of individual nutrients on the course of depression

1. Carbohydrates

In 1971 it was first found to be increasedconsumption of carbohydrates improves mood - it affects the balance of amino acids in the blood serum, and thus increases the concentration of serotonin in the brain.

Reach for he althy carbohydrate sources - whole grains, vegetables and fruits, not store sweets full of refined sugar.

HighSerotoninis responsible for regulating sleep, appetite and well-being. People who suffer from mood disorders have a strong craving for carbohydrates, which shows that the brain is craving them for medicine. The release of insulin after consuming sugars, in consequence, causes the transmission of more tryptophan to the brain, which is used there for the production of neurotransmitters. A diet that is too low in carbohydrates contributes to worsening of mood and depression.

2. Amino acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Many neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, e.g. serotonin from tryptophan,dopaminefrom tyrosine. Methionine is also very important - an essential component of S-adenosylmethionine, which is involved in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. It has been shown that tryptophan supplemented in the fasting state is converted into serotonin, but there are no clear results of studies that would confirm the need for tryptophan and other amino acids supplementation in depression. Their increased consumption with the diet seems to be advisable as it may lead to an increase in the concentration of neurotransmitters in the brain.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

The brain is one of the organs with the highest fat content. Gray matter of the brain consists of about 50 percent fat, of which as much as 33 percent are omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists associate the decline in omega-3 consumption in the modern diet with an increased incidence of depression. The exact mechanism of action of EPA and DHA fatty acids is unknown, but epidemiological and clinical studies have clearly shown that omega-3 fatty acids can be effective in treating depression. Supplementation with 1.5-2 g of EPA a day improves mood, but increasing the dose to more than 3 g of acids does not bring additional benefits. Recommended in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders is the consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the proportion of 1: 1. Meanwhile, in the Western diet this ratio is even 1:20.

Also read: Omega-3, -6, -9: effects and sources in food

Supplementing with 0.5-0.8 mg of folic acid daily reduces symptoms associated with depression.

4. Folic acid

Based on the research, it was found that people suffering from depression are characterized bylow levels of folic acid in plasma and red blood cells, and its deficiencies are manifested by depressive symptoms. Folic acid deficiency translates into an insufficient amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, an increase in the concentration of homocysteine ​​(an amino acid that adversely affects the body, e.g. by damaging blood vessels and atherosclerotic effects) and reduces the effectiveness of drugs used in the treatment of depression.

5. Vitamin B12

Reduced levels of vitamin B12 in the blood are observed in people with drug-resistant depression, while the addition of cobalamin is often effective in increasing the patient's sensitivity to antidepressants. The role of vitamin B12 deficiency in causing depression is not clearly defined, but it may be related to increasing homocysteine ​​levels, as cobalamin is necessary for its conversion to methionine and S-adenosylmethionine - compounds important in the production of neurotransmitters .

6. Iron

Iron participates in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and the myelin sheath of nerve cells, and iron deficiency is found in children with concentration disorders and hyperactivity. Changes in behavior, apathy and depressed mood can be associated with anemia, but the role of iron in depression is not fully understood. It can be seen, however, that both anemia and depression affect women more often than men, and they are more likely to suffer from iron deficiency.

Read also: Diet in anemia, or how to eat in anemia

7. Selenium

Based on a large study by Dr. David Benton from the University of Wales proved that insufficient amount of selenium supplied to the body is associated with depressed mood. In another group of patients, selenium was shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

8. Zinc

Several studies have shown a link between depression and low levels of zinc in the body. Zinc supplementation has also been found to increase the effectiveness of antidepressants. The role of this element in depressive disorders is not fully understood, but it is known that zinc is important in the functioning of the central nervous system and the immune system. In animal experiments, a relationship has been shown between zinc deficiency and decreased activity, indecisiveness in action, memory and concentration impairment.

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Author: Time S.A

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Depressed diet: contraindicated products

The diet for depression problems should be as natural as possible, based on "real food", products that are as little processed as possible. The basis of the menu should be vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts and groats. It is worth taking care of the visual and taste of the meals, because delicious and nicely served food improves the mood. People suffering from depression should avoid foods that make you feel unwell.

These include:

  • alcohol- a glass of wine from time to time is not a bad thing, but frequent use and abuse of alcohol is associated with anxiety and panic attacks. In people who consume alcohol excessively, a decrease in serotonin levels is observed, which promotes depression;

  • caffeine- caffeine contained in coffee, tea, and special energy drinks consumed in excess, reduces the level of serotonin and causes a feeling of anxiety, low mood and sleep disorders;

  • high-calorie food with low nutritional value- sweets with a very high content of sugar and low-quality fat are especially associated with a good effect on the mood and well-being. You have to be aware that the improvement in mood after eating sweets is temporary and related to the quick delivery of energy. After a short time, the mood returns to normal or even worsens. When consumed in excess, store sweets cause obesity, diabetes, and other he alth problems. Therefore, it is better to prepare sweets yourself from he althy products.

Also read: Recipes for he althy snacks

Depressed diet: recommended products

The menu to prevent depression and support its treatment should be rich in food products that provide as many nutrients important in the etiology of the disease as possible. Where to look for them?

  • Tryptophan - pumpkin seeds, soybeans, white and yellow cheese, veal, chicken breast, tuna; the most effective in increasing the level of serotonin is tryptophan supplementation in the form of pharmaceutical preparations.

  • Tyrosine - fish, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, pumpkin seeds, dry legume seeds.

  • Methionine - cereals, dry legume seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame,fish, meat.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids - oily sea fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, halibut), linseed oil, linseed, rapeseed oil, walnuts.

  • Folic acid - spinach, broccoli, avocado, oranges, asparagus, broad beans, Brussels sprouts, peas, soybeans, bananas, cereals, eggs.

  • Vitamin B12 - meat, fish, milk, eggs, cheese.

  • Iron - white and red meat, dry legume seeds, dark green vegetables, parsley, nuts, whole grains.

  • Selenium - Brazil nuts, tuna, sunflower seeds, giblets, fish and seafood, cocoa.

  • Zinc - seafood, fish, sesame, almonds, garlic, whole grains, dry legume seeds.


  1. Sathyanarayana Rao T.S. et al., Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses,Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2008, 50 (2), 77-82, doi: 10.4103 / 0019-5545.42391

  2. Majkutewicz P. et al.,Nutritional treatment of depression,Family Medicine and Primary Care Review, 2014, 16 (1), 48-50

  3. Wilczyńska A.,Fatty acids in the treatment and prevention of depression,Psychiatria Polska, 2013, 47 (4), 657-666

  4. dr inż. Sa’eed Bawa and dr inż. Danuta Gajewska,Can a diet improve your mood? , Lecture given at the "Wszechnica Żywieniowa w Wszechnica WULSGW" on February 21, 2007, http: //www.wszechnica-zywieniowa.sggw .pl / web / dieta.pdf

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