Depression is already one of the main health problems. Research is multiplying and discovering new causes and treatments: what you eat also counts.

Depression affects 5.2% of the Spanish population, about 2.5 million people, and is the main reason for incapacity for work. The causes are usually multiple, but we have more and more evidence that diet plays an important role in them. Luckily, also in the solutions. Genetic, psychological and environmental factors intervene in depression but diet can also influence, since the deficiency of some nutrients is a risk factor.


We should not confuse depression with the habitual swings in our moods or the brief emotional responses that appear when dealing with the problems of everyday life.

Depression becomes a serious health problem when it lasts long and is moderate to severe in intensity. In these cases in which sadness and lack of motivation cause great suffering, affect personal relationships and prevent the development of normal activities, it is essential to seek specialized medical help.

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A good nutritional state allows you to resist the occasional periods of sadness that you may feel and that are normal. A diet that provides the nutrients you need can prevent serious episodes. It is also important to exercise, rest and have emotional support networks.

In case of severe depression that requires medical and psychological treatment, paying special attention to diet can improve the results of the therapy and promote a positive evolution.



Some nutrients and foods are essential to keep you in good spirits and should not be missing from your menu:

  • Omega-3 fats: The functioning of neurons depends on the good state of their membranes and they require sufficient doses of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially of the omega-3 family. Alpha-linoleic acid is provided by flax seeds and virgin flax oil, walnuts, and hemp and chia seeds. For it to be transformed into DHA we need zinc, magnesium and vitamins B6 and B8.
  • Proteins: Its deficit can lead to depression, apathy, nervousness and lack of motivation, memory or concentration. An essential amino acid is tryptophan, which in the morning generates serotonin, the wellness hormone, and in the evening, melatonin, the sleep hormone. Sesame and chia seeds are rich in protein and tryptophan.
  • Group B vitamins: All are involved in the nervous system. Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain them. Vegans should supplement with B12.
  • Antioxidants: Protect your brain with blueberries, pomegranates, black grapes, green tea, pure cocoa, fruits and vegetables, very rich in antioxidant compounds that protect neurons.
  • Oats: Contains fatty acids, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and avenin, which produces a sedative effect on the nervous system. Use it in breakfasts, creams and soups. The certified gluten-free is especially recommended.

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Depression is associated with a deficit of serotonin, the brain neurotransmitter that favors good mood, but this is not the case in all cases, so other possible causes are being studied. Some researchers, such as Dr. Lee S. Berks, have found evidence to support a connection between low-grade inflammation in the body and depression. It has also been linked to oxidative stress.

Both circumstances, inflammation and oxidation, can be modulated by the type of diet, which leaves room for preventive and therapeutic intervention.

To prevent inflammation and oxidative stress, we must start by avoiding the foods that favor them:

  • Dairy and ultra-processed products, especially those loaded with additives and pesticides, are inflammatory.
  • Frequent consumption of coffee and caffeinated sodas is linked to depression and anxiety in some people who are vulnerable to its effects.
  • Alcohol is associated with brain damage, inflammation, and a variety of mental disorders.
  • Sugar causes a deficit of magnesium and B vitamins in the nervous system and promotes reactive hypoglycemia.
  • Gluten induces intestinal hyper permeability in many people, the origin of chronic low-grade inflammation.


Now we know that we have to look at alterations such as depression, which we usually link to the nervous system, in a more global way, since there are many factors that can influence:

  • The hormonal system: insulin resistance, obesity and hypothyroidism are sometimes associated with depression.
  • The digestive system: the state of the micro biota and intestinal hyper permeability can allow the passage of toxins into the bloodstream and reach the brain. Taking care of intestinal bacteria is key to the proper functioning of the so-called “gut-brain axis”.
  • Deficiencies of iron, magnesium, vitamin D or vitamin B12 affect the nervous system.

In addition, it is necessary to take into account:

  • Long-term sleep deprivation and chronic stress favor mood imbalances.
  • Heavy metals, pesticides and other toxic compounds, as well as radiation from electronic devices and wireless networks, put stress on the body.
  • Some medications have side effects, including depression.


In addition to taking care of your diet, there are two lifestyle habits that can help you a lot to reduce the risk of suffering from depression:

  • Regular exercise In addition to watching your diet, numerous studies show the benefits of playing sports for people with depression. Regular aerobic or anaerobic exercise can be as effective as psychotherapy for depression. And there is more: physical activity reduces anxiety, improves inflammatory parameters, and helps regulate weight and rest better.
  • Good sleep hygiene. It is essential to take care of sleep hygiene and respect the hours of rest. To get in sync with your circadian cycles: have dinner early, avoid LED screens two hours before going to bed (the blue light they emit blocks melatonin production), practice relaxation techniques before bed, and expose yourself to sunlight. All first thing in the morning.


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