Eating our way to happiness.

Not the most earth shattering news, but recent research (1) has shown healthy eating i.e. eating pattern rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds and foods with omega-3 such as fish and chia seeds, are mood boosting and reduce the risk of developing depression.

The study concluded that participants in the dietary intervention group had a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms over the three-month period, compared to those in the social support group. At the end of the trial, a third of those in the dietary support group met criteria for remission of major depression, compared to 8% of those in the social support group.

What does the diet look like in the study?

- whole grains (5–8 servings per day)

- vegetables (6 per day)

- fruit (3 per day)

-legumes (3–4 per week)

- low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods (2–3 per day)

- raw and unsalted nuts (1 per day)

- fish (at least 2 per week)

- lean red meats (3–4 per week)

- chicken (2–3 per week)

- eggs (up to 6 per week)

- olive oil (3 tablespoons per day)

- Reducing ‘extras’ foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks (no more than 3 per week). Red wine is preferred and only drink with meals.

Looks familiar? It is a stock standard healthy eating include all core food groups and easy on the extras. This study include animal based foods. It will be interesting to see whether a plant-based diet will have different effects.


(1) A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial)

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Shirley Chan

Consultant Dietitian 

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Shirley Chan Consultant Dietitian ABN 41 009 192 602