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Mental Health

Are Depression and Plant-Based Diets Linked? Yes, Say Nutritionists — Here’s Why

Moody blues can result from protein deficiency.

We know that meat provides protein, and that protein is — generally speaking — higher in meats than in vegetables. It’s why those adhering to a plant-based diet often work things like tofu, soy milk, lentils, and oats into their diets. The protein levels in these foods are near, if not equal, to the protein levels found in animal meats, thus providing vegetarians the nutrients needed to fuel the body, grow and repair cells, and support in maintaining good physical health. But what about mental health? Is there a connection between plant-based diets and the condition of the mind? Will a vegetarian have a higher propensity for psychological issues like depression and anxiety? Below, our nutrition experts answer a reader’s question on the subject.

Q: I’m considering going vegetarian for its health perks, but when I give up meat, I feel a little blue. Is this my imagination?

A: A plant-based diet offers so many benefits, including a reduced risk of most major chronic diseases, but you’re not imagining feeling a little down. In fact, a meta-analysis of 13 studies comprising 50,000 participants found that those on a vegetarian diet had a higher risk of blue moods, likely because they weren’t getting enough of the nutrients that play a role in mood regulation.

Fortunately, you can reap the many benefits of a plant-based diet by adding seafood to your menu. Shellfish, but specifically oysters and mussels, are highest in nutrients that help prevent and treat depression, including folate, iron, omega-3 fats, zinc and potassium. Bonus: Following a pescatarian diet (plant-based plus fish) has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Meet our experts

Nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, are leading authorities on nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. They are also the bestselling authors of Rebuild Your Bones: The 12-Week Osteoporosis Protocol (available at Amazon). To ask them a question, send an email to

Read on a plant-based eating approaches that includes some meat:

The New Plant Slant Eating Approach Could Add Years To Your Life While Subtracting Unwanted Pounds From Your Body

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for Women.

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