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Vegan diet against depression, autoimmune diseases & anxiety – and the top vegan foods

A healthy diet plays a key role in both the prevention and treatment of depression, as well as in improving autoimmune diseases. Research shows that certain dietary habits and foods can affect both the immune system and mental health. 

Woman smiling and holding a pakchoi.

How gut bacteria communicate with the immune system and brain 

The interaction between gut flora, the immune system, and the brain is a key area of current research. Although the exact mechanisms are still being researched, it is known that healthy gut flora plays an important role in regulating the immune system and can have effects on the brain and mood. A healthy diet, rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods, can promote the diversity and health of the gut microbiota, which in turn can have positive effects on the immune system and brain.


Studies like the SMILES study have shown that dietary interventions, including a whole-food plant-based diet, can cause significant improvements in symptoms of depression. A vegan diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids can support mental health by improving gut health and reducing inflammation.

Autoimmune diseases 

Regarding autoimmune diseases, research suggests that a dietary change that avoids inflammatory foods and prefers nutrient-rich plant foods can alleviate symptoms and improve overall health status. The principles of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) can be adapted to a vegan diet, focusing on foods that support the immune system and minimize inflammation.

Anxiety disorders 

Research on anxiety disorders and diet is less extensive than on depression, but there is evidence that certain diets, including the vegan diet, can also offer benefits here. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts can reduce the risk of anxiety disorders and contribute to mood stabilization. The intake of magnesium, zinc, and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids can also have positive effects on anxiety by supporting the neurochemical balance and reducing inflammation in the body.

5 vegan foods to promote gut health

  • Fermented plant foods: Such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and plant-based yogurts, rich in probiotic bacteria, promote healthy gut flora.

  • High-fiber foods: Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

  • Algae and flaxseeds: Are plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and can have anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Nuts and seeds: Such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and promote gut health.

  • Rich vegetables and fruits: Various types of fruits and vegetables offer a variety of prebiotic fibers that nourish healthy gut bacteria.

5 foods to avoid

  • Sugar and sweeteners: Can promote inflammation and support the growth of harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut.

  • Processed and fried foods: Often contain unhealthy fats and additives that can negatively affect gut health.

  • Gluten-containing foods: For people with gluten sensitivity or intolerance, these foods can promote inflammation and impair gut health.

  • Alcohol: Can damage the gut barrier and increase the risk of inflammation and leaky gut syndrome.

  • Artificial additives: Such as preservatives, dyes, and flavor enhancers can disrupt the balance of gut microbiota.


Scientific Sources

1. "SMILES" study by Felice N. Jacka et al. examines the influence of a change in diet on adults with severe depression.

2. Study "Nutrition Interventions in Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Potential Use of Plant-Based Diets. A Review" by Jihad Alwarith et al., published in Frontiers in Nutrition, examines the potential benefits of plant-based diets in rheumatoid arthritis.

3. Study by Beezhold et al. in "Nutritional Neuroscience" shows that vegans experience less anxiety and stress than omnivores, based on the "Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21" (DASS-21) in a sample of 283 vegans, 109 vegetarians and 228 omnivores.


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