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15 Foods To Avoid In Depression

  • Deeksha Mishra
  • 6 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

It is very common to feel unhappy, sad and despair while facing difficult and tough situations in life, however when it interferes in day to day activities and lifestyle, it can be a matter of concern. “According to WHO, approximately 280 million people in the world have depression”. Depression is a common and serious mental health condition; more than feeling sad, it can affect your thoughts, appetite, behavior, day to day activities and your physical health for the long term. Did you know the food that you eat might play a crucial role in triggering depression

Your Unhealthy Lifestyle Can Trigger Depression As Well

Diet, sleep and exercise are the three important components of healthy life. Research on major depression confirmed that biopsychosocial factors and lifestyle contributes often.  

  • Diet: A special course of food to be taken, as per the need of your body. A healthy diet includes protein, fibres, carbs,  fats, macro and micro nutrients which can be a nutritious combination of food for depression. 
  • Sleep: Following good sleep hygiene can help you in removing toxins from the brain makes your body refreshed and recharged.
  • Exercise: When we enjoy movements which help in strengthening our muscles, and try to engage ourselves more in physical activity can help us in better flow of the oxygen to the brain and also lower the risk of heart disease. Example- A morning walk with your dog.

Foods To Beat Depression

What you eat affects how you feel. A healthy diet, exercise and group of foods to avoid when in depression may help you in coping with the illness. Research done in the field is to be aware of the importance of a balanced diet where the nutrients in vegetables and fruits are higher while some enzymes which are found in food increase the levels of serotonin which helps in stabilizing the mood, helps in sound sleep. When intake of junk food or processed food is more can increase the cortisol levels which is a primary stress hormone and overproduction adrenaline also called epinephrine which can rapidly increase heartbeat and palpitations.    

Here are some of the food to improve your Mental Health:

  • Walnuts: Researchers found that walnuts are the food for brain,  have inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can help in improving mental health and are one of the recommended foods for depression.
  • Apples and berries: “An Apple a day keeps psychiatrists away” Apples are a good source of fibres and Vitamin C which has immense health benefits whereas berries are known to improve brain functions and nervous system health.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables: Fibres and other nutrients which are found in green leafy vegetables help in stabilizing and improving our mood. Spinach is a great source for your immune system
  • Tomatoes:  A new study suggested that tomatoes can help in fighting depression as they are rich in antioxidants which helps in reducing cardiovascular disease.
  • Low fat dairy: yogurt is one of the best dairy products as it has lactobacillus acid which helps in maintaining a healthy gut.

15 Foods to Avoid In Depression

If you feel down or have a low mood you are not alone, it can be the reason you have to change your food habits and avoid food which can trigger depression. As there is no specific diet suggested for depression, but there are list of foods to be avoided when having signs of depression to rebalance your brain chemicals.

(1) Caffeine

A good sleep can impact your entire day but after drinking a cup of coffee at dinner it might be difficult to fall asleep whereas avoiding or limiting the caffeine, as taking less than 400mg  of caffeine by an adult can help you in improving the symptoms of depression.  

(2) Alcoholic drinks

Alcohol can influence our drinking habits and can lead to binge drinking. Drinking alcohol can worsen the symptoms whereas changing the drinking habits can help you in coping with depression.  It is a good idea to limit alcohol (2-3pegs maximum). Example-  drinking occasionally in special events can help you in controlling drinking habits whereas when drinking alone could be a warning sign of sadness.

(3) Heavily processed foods

Processed foods are one of the foods to avoid in depression. These are foods which contain substances which are not found in homemade food . These include package bun snacks and powdered soups which may affect your physical health completely.

(4) Fried food

What you eat can influence your mood, eating fried food can influence all five senses as well your health. A study found that eating junk food may increase the risk of depression

(5) White bread

White bread is another such foods to avoid in depression. The highly processed and packaged bread not only can increase obesity but also found that it white bread can be the reason for depression

(6) Sugar and artificial sweeteners

Eating a piece of fruit which has a sweet flavour is not unhealthy but when an added sugar is involved in the diet may enhance flavour  increase the risk of physical as well as psychological health.  A study found that men who have taken a high sugar diet are more prone to depression.

(7) High sodium food

As mentioned by WHO, high sodium consumption can increase the risk of heart disease and also can lead to other Psychological conditions. Whereas >5gm iodized salt taken by adults can help in reducing the symptoms. Example, Canned meat, Sausages should be avoided.

(8) Hydrogenated oil or vegetable oil

Trans Fat has been shown to have health issues as they replace the  natural healthy oil that exists in our body and cause depression and affect our memory.

(9) Soda

A study in Australia found those who consumed soda per day were 60% more likely of having depression, stress-related problems, and even suicidal thoughts. Just by consuming one to two cans a day can increase your risk for diabetes by 26%.

(10) High fat dairy products

Heavy cream, butter, full fat cheese can enhance any dish but can affect your health for the long term. Casein, a protein found in dairy products and food for depression, can directly affect and trigger psychological symptoms of depression.

(11) Gluten

Glutens are another such foods to avoid in depression that can affect mental health and well being in two ways:

  • Can affect the brain and any part of the body which can lead to behavioral and cognitive issues.
  • Affects the quality of life and the physical health which can develop stress.

(12) Avoid genetically modified crops

Genetically modified crops are an artificial method that can create adverse effects on humans. Allergic reactions, toxins in soil when consumed can weaken the immune system, and these foods are to be avoided when in depression.

(13) Flesh food to be avoided

Everything in moderation should be preferred as there is a lot of research still going on, but as found, high processed or red meat can be associated with risk food for depression

(14) Refined flour and refined grains

Numerous studies found that these types of food will be the reason for obesity and other health diseases. Refined sugar gives harmful effects as it releases sugar in blood level quickly and spikes in the results of insulin. Intake of refined flour can trigger depression symptoms.

(15) Energy drinks

Consuming energy drinks may impact your mental and physical health. 

It can lead to sleep problems which may trigger the symptoms of depression. A study on soldiers which says mental health is more affected amongst those soldiers who intake two energy drinks than who do not. 

Mind What And How You Eat

  • Have pre-planned meals: Planning healthy meals will not only lower the risk of chronic lifestyle but also ensures that right proportions are included in your diet. 
  • Eat in moderation: A healthy diet should have the amount of energy, calories and other nutrients required by the body. Eg., limiting sweets after food and replacing them with Dates. Take time when you eat to fully savor the food, enjoying every bite. Ideally it takes 30 minutes for the brain to send a signal of fullness.

Importance of Other Measures To Identify and Manage Depression 

  • Just eating the right does not alleviate the symptoms of depression; it requires a combination of self help strategies and professional help like behavior therapy. In some severe cases of depression medications may also be recommended by Psychiatrists.
  • If you wake up in the morning and throughout the day unable to concentrate, feeling helplessness and consistent thoughts of harming yourself, loss of interest in things you did once with full of joy and happiness, physical signs as unable to sleep or oversleeping, fatigue psychological symptoms as guilt excessive fear and worry which you have experienced more than two weeks, are some of the warning signs to seek help.
  • Along with eating right, exercise also plays a role in alleviating symptoms of depression, as it helps stimulate the release of endorphins which are known as ‘feel good’ chemicals that are essential for your Mental health and Physical health.  Medication and Behavioural therapy are the two primary treatment options for people with depression. If you’re experiencing any symptoms that appear to be difficult, consult a psychotherapist to get diagnosed and receive the timely treatment. It is important to seek help as it is important to understand your self worth and improve overall Quality of life.
  • Also, here are eight types of meditation that you may want to consider for your mental health.



  • Written by

    Deeksha Mishra

Ms. Deeksha Mishra is a Consultant Psychologist with MFine. She is a certified Art Therapist, Practitioner in Mindfulness and a Graphologist.

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