The Best Foods to Eat for Bipolar Depression

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that causes severe, unpredictable shifts in your moods, energy and behaviors. Treatment involves psychotherapy, medications and, in some cases, alternative treatments and lifestyle changes. While numerous dietary programs and supplements claim to treat bipolar disorder, according to Dr. Jane Mountain, physician and author of "Bipolar Disorder: Insights for Recovery," many lack evidence of safety and effectiveness. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet may enhance other treatment forms, however, and help prevent potential complications.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, flounder, salmon and sardines, contain rich amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to positively impact brain processes that affect moods and anxiety of animals and may provide similar effects in humans. Omega-3 fats may also improve depressive symptoms associated with bipolar disorder and minimize risks for cholesterol problems and heart disease -- potential complications of bipolar disorder medications. For heightened benefits, incorporate fatty fish into healthy, balanced meals in place of fatty red meats, which may increase your heart disease risks.

Flaxseed, Walnuts And Canola Oil

Flaxseed, walnuts and canola also provide omega-3 fatty acid benefits. As a fiber-rich food, flaxseed also promotes satiation and healthy digestive function. For optimum results, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends grinding whole flaxseed within one day of use, then storing remaining seed in your refrigerator for freshness. Enjoy walnuts and flaxseed on their own or use them to add nutrients and flavor to smoothies, yogurt, baked goods and cereals. Canola oil provides a heart-healthy alternative to butter, margarine and shortening.

Low-fat Dairy Products

Low-fat dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, supply valuable amounts of protein and nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Mountain recommends low-fat, protein-rich foods and calcium as valuable components of a bipolar disorder-friendly diet. Since protein digests slower than carbohydrates, they may enhance mood and energy balance and further enhance appetite control.If you don't tolerate or consume dairy products, consume soy-based or other lactose-free equivalents for provide similar benefits. Milk and yogurt also contain tryptophan -- an amino acid that promotes calmness and may help ease anxiety during bouts of mania and help you sleep more restfully.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are prime sources of antioxidants -- nutrients that support your body's ability to defend itself from infections and disease. Fruits and vegetables are an important component of most all healthy diets, including bipolar disorder. She suggests eating fresh most often since juices and fruit with added sweeteners may promote weight gain, particularly if you're taking the medication lithium. Unsweetened frozen fruits, frozen vegetables and broth-based vegetable soups provide additional healthy options. Fruits and vegetables particularly rich in nutrients and fiber include berries, citrus fruits, plums, kiwi, tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, cabbage and squash.

Vitamins in Food for Bipolar Disorder

Chemical imbalances in the brain are the main component to bipolar disorder. Genetics and environmental factors also contribute to its development. There is no cure for bipolar disorder and medication only treats symptoms. Lifestyle changes and eating vitamin-rich food can aid in the treatment of bipolar disorder by extending the time between mood swings. Although vitamins help in treating bipolar disorder, they should not replace standard medication without your doctor's consent.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids positively affect mood in people suffering from bipolar disorder, particularly the depressive phase. The University of Maryland reports that in a clinical study of 30 people affected with bipolar disorder. They took fish oil supplements with standard medication and experienced fewer mood swings and relapses for four months. UMMC also reports omega-3 fatty acids are in fish such as halibut, salmon and tuna. Omega-3 is a source for high levels of vitamin A and vitamin D, which are in few foods. Talk with your primary physician before using fish oil supplements to aid your treatment of bipolar disorder.


Thiamin, which is vitamin B-1, helps with anxiety, night terrors and circulation problems. Anxiety is common in people with bipolar disorder, and night terrors are common side effects of medication. In addition, thiamin keeps nerves and muscle tissue healthier. Good sources of thiamin in food include pork, vegetables, milk and whole-grain bread. The recommended thiamin is 1 mg a day for men and 0.8 mg for women, and you can obtain these through food.


Pyridoxine, which is vitamin B-6, helps in bipolar patients with high irritability and is useful in allowing the body to store and use energy from proteins and carbohydrates. It is in white meat, pork, potatoes and eggs. If you cannot add these to your diet, take vitamin B supplements with your doctor's consent.

Vitamin B-12 And Folic Acid

Vitamin B-12 and folic acid helps with fatigue associated with depression because it turns food into energy. Vegetarians may need to take supplements because B-12 is primarily in meat. It works well with folic acid. Vegetables and brown rice are good sources of folic acid, particularly broccoli, asparagus and brussels sprouts.


Vitamins alone have not proven effective in treating bipolar disorder; however, they help aid in its treatment and alleviate several of its symptoms. The best way to get your daily intake of vitamins for bipolar disorder is a varied and healthy diet. Some of the vitamins can counteract certain medication. For example, folic acid counters the effects of anticonvulsants such as Depakote and Depakene. It is imperative that you discuss this with your doctor before incorporating high doses of vitamins into your diet.

Herbal Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Some herbs can help stabilize your mood by either elevating or calming your frame of mind. If you wish to try herbal treatments for bipolar disorder, talk with your doctor before you take them because they are not replacements for medications and should be closely monitored.

St. John's Wort

St. John's wort has historically been used as medicine by cultures such as the ancient Greek society for various nervous disorders. St. John's wort may help alleviate the low mood swings associated with bipolar disorder. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that research suggests St. John's wort provides chemicals such as hypericin, hyperforin and flavonoids that act similarly to SSRIs, or common antidepressants, by making certain brain chemicals--including serotonin and dopamine--more available in your brain. These brain chemicals directly affect mood and increasing them generally raises your state of mind. St. John's wort has less side effects that most antidepressants. However, it can lead to mania, so have your intake closely monitored by a doctor.

Black Cohosh

Native Americans found that the root of the black cohosh plant aided the relief of menstrual and menopausal symptoms, including cramps, hot flashes, problems sleeping, irritability and mood swings. Black cohosh represses the nervous system and acts as a sedative. This herb can help calm manic moods and anxiety associated with bipolar disorder.

Ginkgo Biloba Oil

Ginkgo biloba oil is distilled from ginkgo tree leaves, found in China and other Asian countries. It is often prescribed as a treatment for dementia in Germany. This herb is most commonly used to improve memory. However, it may also help stimulate blood flow to your brain, which improves absorption of nutrients, vitamins and oxygen. This may help alleviate symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, according to Haggerty.


Although herbal remedies are natural, some still pose potential side effects and risks. Many negatively interact with antidepressant medications such as St. John's wort. Black cohosh has been associated with side effects including stomach pain, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, joint pain, slow heart rate, nausea, tremors, vomiting and weight gain. You should not take ginkgo biloba oil if you take prescription blood thinners or have a blood-clotting condition. Make sure to only take herbs to treat bipolar disorder if your doctor advises them and to have your intake closely monitored to prevent possible interactions and risks.

Foods to Avoid with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depression and characterized by extreme, unusual shifts in energy, activity levels and mood that interfere with your ability to function normally. Symptoms develop gradually and often appear before age 25. Bipolar disorder is treatable, generally through long-term psychotherapy and medications. A healthy diet, limited in certain foods, may support management of the disease and help prevent obesity, heart disease and other potential complications.

Enriched Flour

Enriched flour, whether white or wheat, is considered high-glycemic because it can impact your blood sugar levels significantly. Limiting enriched flour products may improve symptoms of bipolar disorder. In the study, the dietary habits of women between ages 20 and 93 -- some with bipolar disorder and others with no history of a psychological disorder -- were examined. The women with bipolar disorder consumed a higher-glycemic diet than the women without. In addition, the more high-glycemic foods women consumed, the greater her chances became of developing severe bipolar symptoms. To reap potentially similar benefits, choose low-glycemic carbohydrate sources, such as whole grains, over enriched breads, pasta and snack foods, most often. Because enriched flour products are less filling than fiber-rich alternatives, limiting them may also enhance appetite control and weight management.

Added Sugars

Added sugars are foods that contribute sweet flavor and calories, but little fiber or nutrients, to foods. Added sugars are also high in the glycemic index. Thus, avoiding foods rich in added sugars, such as soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, frozen desserts, pancake syrup, jam and jelly, may help reduce your symptoms. Dr. Wes Burgess, author of "The Bipolar Handbook: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers," recommends limiting added sugars, particularly if you feel they trigger hyper energy, edginess or manic behavior. For best results, replace added sugar sources with naturally sweet foods, such as fresh, frozen or dried fruit, fruit salad or whole grain baked goods sweetened with applesauce or non-nutritive sweeteners. Common sources of added sugars include cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, dextrose, maltose and cane juice. Because people vary in their response to added sugars, Burgess recommends seeking guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

Saturated Fat

A diet rich in saturated fat increases your risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Because bipolar disorder also increases your risk for these conditions, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, replacing saturated fat with healthy alternatives, such as plant-based oils, avocados, nuts and seeds, is important. Common sources of saturated fat include red meat, organ meats, bacon, sausage, egg yolks, butter, whole milk, heavy cream and high-fat cheeses. Avoid high-fat cooking methods, such as deep-frying, for additional benefits.

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