Jake’s Corner

Welcome to Jake’s Corner, a newsletter from UBA board member Dr. Jake Goodman. Dr. Jake Goodman is a psychiatry resident physician & global mental health activist with more than 2.1 million followers on social media.

Jake’s Corner

Welcome to Jake’s Corner, a newsletter from UBA board member Dr. Jake Goodman. Dr. Jake Goodman is a psychiatry resident physician & global mental health activist with more than 2.1 million followers on social media.

Hi friends 😊

Some of my favorite weekends take place when I’m hanging with my parents and enjoying some incredible Mom-cooked meals. My mom is the best cook that I know (don’t tell my wife I said that – she’s a close #2). I am blessed that I grew up eating healthy, nutritious, home-cooked meals. It was a struggle to cook good meals when I left home after high school, and it took me years to begin cooking from scratch like my mom.

Today, let’s break down a fascinating study that sheds light on the connection between diet and depression. It’s called the SMILES Trial, and it provides valuable insights into how our mood and mental health can be impacted by what we eat.

The SMILES Trial: How Diet Affects Depression

Visual learner? Watch the video below (90 seconds). Rather read? I’ve summarized the trial under the video (30 seconds).

The SMILES Trial Summary

The SMILES Trial, published in BMC Medicine, delves into the relationship between diet and depression. Researchers recruited adults with major depressive disorder and randomly assigned them to receive either dietary intervention or social support for 12 weeks.

The dietary intervention group focused on promoting a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil, while limiting ultra processed foods. Participants received personalized dietary advice and support from a dietitian.

Results and Conclusion

The results were striking. At the end of the study, about 32.3% of the people in the dietary intervention group showed SUCH significant improvements in their depression symptoms that they NO LONGER met criteria for depression.

THIS IS A HUGE DEAL Y’ALL! 1 in 3 people that changed their diet from unhealthy to a Mediterranean Diet WERE NO LONGER DEPRESSED AFTER 3 MONTHS!

Compared to only 1 in 12 people in the social support group who saw the same improvements.

“Nourish your body with REAL food and your body and brain will thank you.”

Breaking Down the Mediterranean Diet

Now, let’s take a closer look at what exactly constitutes a Mediterranean diet. Let me be clear, this study does not demonstrates that any SPECIFIC food will treat depression.  Rather it’s about the PATTERN of eating that appears to make the difference.

Here’s the breakdown of the exact foods consumed in this study:

1. Fruits and Vegetables: 

  • Benefits: Rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins (i.e. folate), minerals, & antioxidants that are important for maintaining optimal brain function
  • What changed? The dietary group increased fruit intake by 0.46 servings per day in this study.
  • What Foods? Leafy greens (like spinach, kale), berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, & bell peppers.

2. Whole Grains: 

  • Benefits: These provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals to support overall health.
  • What changed? The dietary group increased whole grains by 1.2 servings per day in this study
  • What Foods? Brown rice, quinoa, oats, & whole wheat bread. Ditch white bread!

3. Legumes: 

  • Benefits: These plant-based protein sources are rich in fiber & nutrients.
  • What changed? The dietary group increased legumes by 1.4 more servings per week
  • What Foods? Specifically chick peas, garbanzo beans, peas, and lentils were consumed

4. Nuts and Seeds: 

  • Benefits: Many nuts are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to a reduced risk of depression
  • What changed? For some reason the study didn’t list the amount that changed… Weird. But I’d conservatively estimate that the dietary group would have increased these by at least 1-2 more servings per week
  • Foods: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds (great to eat as a snack or add them to salads, yogurt, or oatmeal).

5. Fish: 

  • Benefits: These are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids (like nuts), which can help reduce inflammation in the brain and throughout the body.
  • What changed? The dietary group incorporated 1.12 more servings per week of fish
  • Foods: Include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines in your meals a few times a week

6. Olive Oil: 

  • Benefits: It’s a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet and extra virgin olive oil, in particular, contains high levels of antioxidants, such as polyphenols and vitamin E. These antioxidants help protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation
  • What changed? The dietary group increased olive oil intake by 0.42 servings per day
  • How to incorporate: Use extra virgin olive oil as your primary fat for cooking

7. Herbs and Spices: 

  • Flavor your dishes with herbs and spices instead of salt to enhance taste without added sodium. Basil, oregano, garlic, and turmeric are popular choices.

8. Moderate Dairy: 

  • Benefits: Some dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a crucial role mood regulation. Adequate vitamin D levels have been associated with a reduced risk of depression.
  • What changed? The dietary group increased dairy consumption by 0.52 servings per day
  • How to incorporate: Include moderate amounts of dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk, preferably low-fat or reduced-fat options.


  • “Ultra-Processed foods” is a term used to describe a category of food products that have undergone extensive processing and often contain additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.
    • Soda & energy drinks
    • Processed meats: Hot dogs, sausages, bacon
    • Fast food: Burgers, fries, fried chicken, and pizza from fast-food restaurants.

Closing Thoughts

As we wrap up this week’s newsletter, I encourage you to reflect on the profound connection between diet and depression. Food = Medicine. Nourish your body with REAL food and your body and brain will thank you.

Disclaimer: This e-mail message and any content attached to it are for educational and informational purposes only, and nothing herein is intended to be, or shall be construed as, medical, legal, or financial advice. Any reliance on such information is expressly at your own risk.

This Week’s Sources:

Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R.et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med 15, 23 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y

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