Depression: What You Eat Changes How You Feel

The Last Harvest by Marisa Kestel on etsy

There are few more contentious topics these days than “what you eat.”

I won’t get into which diets are best and how we need to change the world through them, and this also has nothing to do with changing your body shape.

I’m here to talk about what I tried that worked in helping me to feel better.


Foods avoided

First, I cut out alcohol consumption. Alcohol makes me feel worse, almost across the board: any kind, any situation, any amount. It sends me into the pit, for at least 48 hours. (I’m not making this up.) I haven’t had addiction issues, and there were a few years where alcohol consumption was really fun! But cutting it out has been good for me.

Caffeine. It messes with mood ups and downs too much. Yes, this meant even cutting out chocolate for a while. But the effects of eating it were so strong and noticeable that cutting it out created marked positive feedback.

Refined foods, like sugar and wheat flour and packaged foods.

Nightshades. There was a point where one of the meds I trialled had me swollen up with some kind of auto-immune response that behaved like rheumatoid arthritis. As we sorted out the underlying cause(s), my nutritionist recommended a low-inflammation diet. It excluded all refined foods and nightshades: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.

Foods welcomed

Fresh vegetables. Mother* was right: fresh vegetables are really good for you. Paying such strong attention to what was happening in my body led me to feeling the energetics of food. And eating fresh vegetables creates a happy buzz.
(*Maybe not yours, but someone’s.)

Food that’s close to home. Not everyone has the luxury of having garden space in the back yard and living near a mixed farming community. But for those of us who do, we know that eating vegetables from the earth tastes good and very different from the same vegetables we get in most stores. It’s the same with meat, if you eat it. For example, chicken from your local farmer tastes so much better than chicken from a commercial farm. And there has to be goodness in that.

Water. Okay, it’s not a food, but it seems to help with balancing everything out.

Tea. It’s hot, it’s a change in taste, and it’s soothing. After cutting out caffeine, I hit rooibos. It’s perfect when I’m after a mellow, dark drink. And I have always enjoyed herbal infusions, so it wasn’t a stretch to reach for them. To go back to my earlier article on how pushing our senses can shift how we’re feeling, tea fits.

It’s both simple and complicated: We become accustomed to eating certain foods, even when we know that others might be better for us. By trying to move toward those that help us more, and avoiding more of the ones that make us feel worse, we can start to participate in feeling better more of the time.

Have you noticed that, over time or in the moment, certain foods help support good feelings? What works (or doesn’t work) for you?

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I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this. You are reading the seventh in a series of thirteen articles on surviving depression. Find the first six articles here.

6 thoughts on “Depression: What You Eat Changes How You Feel

  1. About two years ago I switched to produce and grass-fed meats from the local farmers market, and organics in general. Adopting the five ingredient rule eliminated all of the chemical-laden convenience foods from my shopping cart. More recently, anything with high fructose corn syrup stays at the grocery. This ruthlessness about what I eat has rendered at least 80% of the food at the grocery store inedible. It has also made me get more creative about cooking. An unexpected side effect of all this has been a marked decrease in the amount of trash I make. It’s been a pretty amazing trip. Sure, my grocery bill is a bit higher, but I have never felt so good.

  2. Last year I discovered that I had gotten fat. It sort of snuck up on me. I’ve dealt with anxiety/depression over the years. Being fat didn’t help any. So I started changing how I eat – I did not “go on a diet”. I just changed certain habits. There are WAY more veggies in my daily food consumption today. And I’ve lost weight, about 20 pounds. I feel sooo much better, both physically and mentally/emotionally. This is my new way of life. By the way, the other “food” that you should avoid is diet soda. Or any soda, really. But diet soda is the worst.

  3. I follow the book “Eat Right for Your Blood Type” if you find out your blood type you can follow a reliable diet that will keep you fit and trim and healthy. Feeling good will follow the right way you are eating.
    I’m type O and nightshade plants are on the avoid list. I can eat sweet potato and yucca, which I can eat daily if I wanted to. That replaces the starchy nightshade plants I can’t eat anymore. I also stopped eating red meat, beef or buffalo and noticed I feel so much better. More energy and my digestion is improving.

  4. Three cheers for Rooibos!! It is such a beauty. I drink it like it’s going out of fashion and always reach for it when eating something even mildly sweet. When I later decided to study the benefits of taking Rooibos, it all made sense.

  5. Andrea, Sara, and Marsha–it *is* all about feeling good! I’m so glad you’ve all found ways there through what you eat.
    Jayne: yes! I raise my tea mug to rooibos!

  6. Thank you so much for including my photograph, Lori-Ann. It means the world. Those vegetables came from our very own garden. Eating healthy every day helps your body function successfully.

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