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Healthy eating and depression

Feeling down or depressed can affect both your appetite and your daily routine.

Some people don’t feel like eating when they’re depressed and are at risk of becoming underweight. Others find comfort in food and can put on excess weight. Antidepressants can also affect your appetite.

If you're concerned about weight loss, weight gain or how antidepressants are affecting your appetite, talk to your GP.

Tips for eating a healthy diet

Research into the links between diet and depression is ongoing. As yet, there is not enough evidence to say for certain that some foods help relieve symptoms of depression. 

However, a healthy balanced diet is important for maintaining good general health.

“The most important thing is to eat regularly and to include the main food groups in your daily diet," says Dr Lynn Harbottle, consultant in nutrition and dietetics at the Health and Social Services Department in Guernsey. 

A diet based on starchy foods, such as rice and pasta, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and lentils, and some milk and dairy foods (and not too much fat, salt or sugar) will give you all the nutrients you need.

Find out more about the five food groups by looking at the eatwell plate. Also, read more about how to have a balanced diet.

There are many simple ways to improve your diet. However, if you're more severely depressed and feel unable to shop or prepare food, see your GP to discuss the types of treatment and support that are available.

Eat regular meals

Have three meals every day, including breakfast. Breakfast can help give you the energy you need to face the day. Try a bowl of wholegrain cereal with some sliced banana and a glass of fruit juice for a healthy start to the day. If you feel hungry between meals, have a healthier snack such as a piece of fruit.

Eat more wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds

These foods are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Try to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.

Include some protein at every meal

Protein is essential for the growth and repair of the body. You can get it from meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, lentils and beans.

Don't get thirsty

We need to drink about 1.2 litres of fluid a day to stop us getting dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can affect our mood. Symptoms of dehydration include lack of energy and feeling light-headed. Find out more about how much you should drink, including how to choose healthier drinks.

If you drink alcohol, drink within the recommended daily limits

If you're a man, don't regularly drink more than three-to-four units a day. If you're a woman, don't regularly drink more than two-to-three units a day. Use our alcohol unit calculator to find out how many units there are in different types of alcoholic drinks. Don't drink alcohol if you're taking antidepressants.

When you make changes to your diet, set yourself realistic and achievable goals. Lynn warns against crash or miracle diets that might not be nutritionally balanced. Instead, make moderate changes. If you want to make major changes to your diet, see your GP, who can refer you to a registered dietitian. 

Further information about diet and mental wellbeing

For general advice on healthy eating, see our food and diet section.

The energy diet has information about how healthy eating can help prevent tiredness.

Many treatment options are available for depression, including talking therapies, antidepressant medication and various self-help techniques. Find out more about treatment for depression.

If you've been feeling low for more than two weeks, see your GP to find out about treatment choices and to get advice on which might be most suitable for you.

Page last reviewed: 06/01/2014

Next review due: 06/01/2016


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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

cvdnmci said on 18 October 2015

Along the sides of main roads (or minor) there are many of what I call 'farms', of blackberries and other edible food. But I never see any initiative to make use of it. In supermarkets a large handful of berries costs £2 here. Plus packaging and the reinforcement of the idea that industry caters for everything. I made some fabulous jam and have enough for a year, ready to make more. Very rich in nutrients and tasty-ness, hardly any jelly. I couldn't stop smiling because it was so easy to make.

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User993187 said on 08 August 2015

how are you supposed to eat healthy when you can't even get up from your bed

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karla bubbles said on 06 November 2014

It's difficult to eat right when you are severely depressed. I have very little energy to prepare food some days and crave sugar and simple carbs which makes eating well a challenge. There's never any advice on this, they are so eager to tell you what to eat but forget that sometimes it feels impossible! I do find that eating what is right for me is essential so have had to work it out somehow! My advice is to keep it simple, healthy doesn't need to be complicated. A bit of fish and some veg is ideal, buy it ready prepared if you need to. If you have a good day consider preparing something in advance and freezing it, you'll be glad of it on a bad day! Keep away from sugar, eat fruit, wholemeal toast etc instead, you need the carbs but stay away from white bread etc, it only makes things worse. Avocados are awesome and take very little preparation, same with nuts. It can be done as long as you don't expect too much of yourself.

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