Good Food Good Mood: Foods to Eat and Avoid

written by Dr. Bolanle Aina - Jul 24, 2023

When it comes to managing mental health conditions, antidepressant medications play a crucial role in helping individuals regain their mental wellness. However, a recent study showed that about 50% of patients with depression do not see improvement when treated with first-line antidepressant agents. That's a very high percentage! The truth is that certain foods and drinks can interact with prescription medications, potentially affecting their effectiveness. Understanding how food and beverages interact with antidepressants is essential for maximizing their benefits. In this article, we explore the dietary and nutritional considerations needed to maximize effectiveness of antidepressants. Read on to discover foods and drinks to avoid for optimal effectiveness.

What to Avoid Eating or Drinking with Antidepressants infographic

How Foods and Drinks Interact with Antidepressants

Antidepressant medications work by adjusting the levels of mood-altering chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain. However, various substances found in food and drinks can interfere with the absorption, metabolism, or side effects of these medications. Let's delve into how these interactions can impact treatment outcomes.

Some foods and drinks contain compounds that can affect enzymes responsible for metabolizing antidepressant medications. For example, grapefruit and grapefruit juice contain substances that inhibit the metabolising enzymes, leading to higher medication levels in the body. This can result in an increased risk of side effects or even toxicity from antidepressant medications.

Tyramine is an amino acid that is involved in blood pressure regulation. Foods high in tyramine can interact with antidepressants that belong to the monoamine oxidase inhibitor group such as Nardil, leading to a potentially dangerous condition called hypertensive crisis.

Hypertensive crises refer to increased blood pressure up to 160/90 – 220/115 mmHg. Symptoms of hypertensive crises usually begins 1-2 hour after eating the conflicting food and include severe headache, heart pounding and palpitations. If not controlled hypertensive crises can lead to other complications. Examples of tyramine-rich foods include aged cheeses, cured meats, fermented foods, and some alcoholic beverages. It's crucial to be aware of these food sources and exercise caution when consuming them.

Furthermore, caffeine and stimulants, such as coffee, energy drinks, and certain medications, can have an impact on anxiety and sleep disturbances. Since many individuals with mental health conditions already experience these symptoms, excessive caffeine intake can exacerbate the symptoms and counteract the effects of antidepressant medications such as Prozac, Effexor XR, Fetzima, and Nardil, among others. It's important to monitor and reduce caffeine consumption as much as possible when on these medications.

The Gut-Brain connection

Understanding the gut-brain connection requires understanding how the food we eat influence our gut, which in-turn influence our brain and mood. Ever heard of the statement that your gut is your second brain? Yes indeed!

The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota, which play a crucial role in various bodily functions, including digestion, immune system regulation, and even the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA. Any alteration in the ability of the gut to produce these neurotransmitters may lead to changes in our mood and proper brain functioning. Studies have shown that people with depressive disorder have an imbalance in their gut microbiome such as decreased number of good bacteria and elevated bad bacteria levels. A balanced diet that is rich in fiber, whole foods, probiotics, and fermented foods supports a healthy gut by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing inflammation in the body.

Foods to Avoid While on Antidepressants

Dairy Products and Some Cheeses:

While dairy products are a staple in many diets, certain studies suggest a link between high dairy consumption and increased symptoms of depression. Some individuals may be sensitive to the proteins found in dairy, which can trigger inflammation and affect mood. Consider reducing your intake of dairy products or exploring dairy-free alternatives to see if it makes a difference in your symptoms. Also as mentioned above, tyramine-rich foods such as aged cheeses and cured meats should be avoided.

Ultra-processed foods:

Ultra-processed foods often contain high fat, high sugar, and spicy ingredients. Consuming foods high in unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and excessive spices can lead to inflammation in the body and impact neurotransmitter levels. These fluctuations can potentially worsen depressive symptoms. Always opt for a balanced diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables to support your mental health. How do you spot an ultra processed food? You need to take a look at the nutritional content, check the fat content, check the sugar and carbohydrate content. Also examine the ingredient list for the preservatives and the additives.

Smoked or Processed Meats:

Smoked or processed meats often contain high levels of additives, preservatives, and sodium, which can negatively affect our mood and overall health. These ingredients can trigger inflammation and disrupt the delicate chemical balance in our brains. Choosing fresh, unprocessed meats or plant-based protein alternatives can be a healthier choice for both your mental and physical well-being.

Drinks to avoid while on antidepressants


While it may be tempting to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, it's important to understand that alcohol is a depressant. It can intensify depressive symptoms and interact negatively with antidepressant medications, making them less effective. Avoid or limit alcohol consumption while on antidepressant treatment to ensure optimal outcomes. Alcohol can also interact with the release mechanisms of some extended-release antidepressants such as Fetzima, exposing the patients to excessively high levels of the drug and causing more side effects.


Coffee and other caffeinated beverages can provide a temporary energy boost, but they can also disrupt sleep patterns and increase anxiety. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and can worsen depressive symptoms. Try reducing your caffeine intake by opting for decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas to support your mental well-being.

Energy Drinks and Sodas:

Energy drinks and sodas are often packed with sugar, artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame, artificial additives, and high levels of caffeine. These can lead to energy crashes, mood swings, and negatively impact your mental health. Opt for natural alternatives like infused water, herbal teas, or homemade fruit juices to stay hydrated and avoid the detrimental effects of sugary drinks.

Fruit Juice:

While fruit juice may seem like a healthy choice, it can contain high levels of added sugars and lack the beneficial fiber found in whole fruits. The rapid spike in blood sugar levels followed by a crash can affect your mood and energy levels. It's best to consume whole fruits instead, which provide essential nutrients and fiber for better overall health.

Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice:

Grapefruit contains compounds that inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down medications, resulting in higher drug levels in the body. This can increase the risk of side effects and toxicity. If you are taking medications for mood such as Quetiapine, Latuda, Buspirone, Diazepam, it is advisable to avoid consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice.

Nutritional Considerations: balanced diet and supplements

Balanced Diet:

Cooking and eating a well-balanced diet is crucial for supporting mental health and optimizing the effectiveness of antidepressant medications in patients with major depressive disorder. Aim to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals. These nutrient-rich foods provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain health and overall well-being.

Specific Nutrients and Supplements:

Certain nutrients have been linked to improved mental health, and they can complement the effects of antidepressant medications. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have shown promise in reducing symptoms of depression. B-vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B12, are also important for brain function and can be obtained from foods like leafy greens, legumes, and fortified cereals. Additionally, magnesium, found in nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, is involved in neurotransmitter production and can support mood stability. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements to ensure they are appropriate and safe for you.

The Key Takeaway

Optimizing your mental health journey involves not only taking prescription medications for depression but also being mindful of the foods and drinks you consume. Avoiding certain foods like dairy products, fatty and processed foods, and smoked meats, as well as steering clear of alcohol, coffee, energy drinks, and excessive fruit juice consumption, can positively impact your depression symptoms. Additionally, it's essential to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations, maintain proper hydration, eat balanced diet, and take your antidepressants at the same time every day if possible.

Remember to communicate openly with your healthcare provider, follow their guidance, and make informed choices to maximize the full potential of your antidepressant prescription medication. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about the potential food-drug interaction and food-disease interactions.



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While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.