Depression & nutrition

Depression is a term applied to a wide variety of emotional states.  These may range from feeling down for a few hours on a given day to severe clinical depression that may last for several months.

Depression is not something that a person can control or prevent by willpower or determination.  In its most severe forms depression appears to be a chemical imbalance that may occur at any time, even when life is going well.

If you feel you are depressed it is important to seek help from your GP, neurologist or psychologist.  There are many support services to help you.  Medication, exercise, counselling, support groups and dietary changes are some of the options available to you.
The food we eat can definitely affect our mood.[i]

Ideas for "mood food":


Enjoy plenty of...

Eat moderately...

Limit or avoid...

  • Fish and omega 3s.[ii] [iii] [iv]
  • Enjoy Low Glycaemic Index (low GI) foods such as brown rice and wholegrain breads.
  • Starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes.
  • B12 and Folate[v][vi] foods[vii]Tomato juice, green beans, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, lentils, beans.  
  • Foods containing the natural chemical SAM-e.[viii]  - your body manufactures SAM-e from the amino acid methionine, which is found in lean unprocessed meats, soybeans, eggs, seeds and lentils.
  • ?Foods rich in 5-HTP[ix]. This is an amino acid which raises serotonin levels and can enhance mood and sleep.  Foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan can help raise levels of 5-HTP.  Such as: lean unprocessed red meats (beef, pork, lamb, and wild game), poultry (chicken and turkey), and seafood (tuna, salmon, halibut and prawns), as well as cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, cashews and avocados.
  • ?Iron levels can have an effect our mood. Good food sources of iron are: fish, wholegrain cereals, meat, poultry, spinach, raisins, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas.
  • ?Magnesium is a mineral with many uses in the body including relaxing tense muscles and maintaining normal nerve function. Good food sources include: spinach, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains.
  • Oat, soy and almond milk
  • Sugar[x]
  • Alcohol
  • Depression can be triggered by anxiety so be mindful of how many stimulants you have in your diet which may contribute to anxiety.  Cut down, or avoid coffee and caffeine based energy drinks.



  • You may also ask your GP to check for nutritional deficiencies as some deficiencies may impact depression.  In particular Omega 3s, Vit D, Magnesium, Vit Bs, Iron, Zinc and Selenium and some amino acids.


Create your own personalised symptom report using the Get your ACT together tool. The content is designed for people in the ACT, however it’s filled with information and handy tips and tricks that are useful for all people living with multiple sclerosis, wherever you live. The tool currently focuses on emotions, fatigue and continence, with three new symptoms being launched in 2018.

[i] M. Peet, International variations in the outcome of schizophrenia and the prevalence of depression in relation to national dietary practices: an ecological analysis, BRITISH JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY (2004),184, 404 - 408

[ii] B.M. Ross, J. Seguin, L.E. Sieswerda, Omega-3 fatty acids as treatments for mental illness: which disorder and which fatty acid?, Lipids in Health and Disease 2007, 6:21

[iii] Beydoun MA, Fanelli Kuczmarski MT, Beydoun HA, Rostant OS, Evans MK, Zonderman AB. Associations of the Ratios of n-3 to n-6 Dietary Fatty Acids With Longitudinal Changes inDepressive Symptoms Among US Women. Am J Epidemiol. 2015 May 1;181(9):691-705. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu334. Epub 2015 Apr 7.

[iv] Mello AHGassenferth A ,Souza LR, Fortunato JJ , Rezin GT. Acta Neuropsychiatr. ω-3 and major depression: a review. 2014 Jun;26(3):178-85. doi: 0.1017/neu.2013.52.

[v] Jukka Hintikka, Tommi Tolmunen, Antti Tanskanen and Heimo Viinamäki, High vitamin B12 level and good treatment outcome may be associated in major depressive disorder, BMC Psychiatry 2003, 3:17

[vi] Coppen, Alec, and Christina Bolander-Gouaille. "Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12,Journal of Psychopharmacology.19.1(Jan 2005):59

[vii] Taylor MJ, Carney SM, Goodwin GM, Geddes JR. Folate for depressive disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2004; 18: 251-256.

[viii] Bressa GM. S-adenosyl-1-methionine (SAMe) as antidepressant: meta-analysis of clinical studies. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica 1994; Suppl. 154: 7-14.

[ix] T. Birdsall,  5-Hydroxytryptophan: A Clinically-Effective Serotonin Precursor, Alternative Medicine Review  Volume 3, Number 4  1998

[x] Gangwisch JE, Hale L, Garcia L, Malaspina D, Opler MG, Payne ME, Rossom RC, Lane D. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women's Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun 24. pii: ajcn103846. [Epub ahead of print]


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