Can your diet fight depression?

blog emotional eating food and mood gut health gut-brain connection mental health Feb 13, 2024

Did you know that 1 in 8 people live with a mental health disorder [1]? Many employees suffer with a form of depressive disorder, which in no doubt can significantly impact their overall wellbeing and quality of life. While mental health disorders are complex, there is growing research that nutrition may play an important role in both the prevention and treatment of depression [2].

This connection was demonstrated in the first randomised control trial conducted in Australia. The SMILES (Supporting the Modification of Lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States) trial investigated the effects of dietary quality on symptoms of depression [3]. The study was designed so that participants either were assigned a social support group or they followed a modified Mediterranean diet under guidance from a dietitian. They found that after 12 weeks, the participants who followed the modified Mediterranean diet had not only a greater improvement in depressive symptoms, but the more they improved their diet the greater the reduction in depressive symptoms!

While mental health is complex, healthy traditional dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, may help to prevent and treat depression. Incorporating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and fish can help to support your mental health through food.


[1]      Global, regional, and national burden of 12 mental disorders in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet Psychiatry 2022.

[2]      Kris-Etherton PM, Petersen KS, Hibbeln JR, Hurley D, Kolick V, Peoples S, et al. Nutrition and behavioral health disorders: Depression and anxiety. Nutr Rev 2021.

[3]      Opie RS, O’Neil A, Jacka FN, Pizzinga J, Itsiopoulos C. A modified Mediterranean dietary intervention for adults with major depression: Dietary protocol and feasibility data from the SMILES trial. Nutr Neurosci 2018.