A vegan lifestyle has plenty of proven health perks. But could an all-veg diet be affecting your mood for the worse? Recent studies show a link between meat consumption and mood, and has us wondering if those of us who don’t eat meat are at higher risk for anxiety and depression. We’ve asked holistic nutritionist, Kelly LeVeque to weigh in and share a few healthy recipes to kick things back into balance…

Australia was the first to prove in a randomized controlled trial that food does affect mood. Professor Felice Jacka of Deakin University is leading the charge, trying to prove that red meat might contribute to depression and anxiety – but she found the opposite, twice!

Study 1: “Red Meat Consumption and Mood and Anxiety Disorders.”[1]] In the study, Jacka identified 60 women with major depressive disorder (or dysthymia) and 80 with anxiety, compared their red meat (lamb and beef) consumption (median of 39g) to the Australian recommendations of 65-100g and observed mood changes with red meat consumption modifications.

For those women consuming less than the recommended intake of red meat, the odds for MDD and dysthymia more than doubled compared to those consuming the recommended intakes. Similarly, those women with low red meat consumption were twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder.

Study 2: Cheekily named “The Smiles Trail,” [2] 67 men and women taking antidepressants were either placed into a social support group (with no dietary modifications) or on a mandatory modified Mediterranean diet which included wild proteins like grass-fed beef, chicken, fish and eggs, healthy fats like olive oil and raw nuts and lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes. The diet didn’t allow sweets, refined cereals, fried foods, fast foods or processed meats. Alcohol was limited to two glasses of red wine a day max.

After three months, the participants on the Mediterranean diet eating omega 3 rich fish and 100% grass-fed animals showed drastic improvements with 32% of the participant’s no longer meeting the criteria for depression, whereas, the social support group only showing that type of improvement in less than 8%.

Omega 3 vs. Red Meat: It’s important to take note that the participants in these Australian studies are consuming Australian pasture raised red meat, protein much higher in anti-inflammatory omega 3 than industrially raised USDA beef. Interestingly, since we now know that depression is associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response and activation of cell-mediated immunity, as well as activation of the compensatory anti-inflammatory reflex system the question becomes: Are the benefits in mood based on the increase of red meat consumption or the subsequent increase in omega 3 fatty acids?

Either way, below are two mood-lifting omega-3 rich recipes for you to try!

Roasted Salmon with Lemon, Dill + Arugula


2 salmon filets, about 4 oz each
6 Tbsp Olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
½ lemon juiced
pink salt, to taste
fresh dill
Organic Girl mache blend
1 bag of organic arugula


Preheat over to 350˚ F.

Rub salmon with two tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add a few slices of fresh lemon on top and place in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk 4 tablespoons olive oil with the juice of ½ lemon. Add mache and arugula and mix to coat.

Roast for about 20 minutes (or until done to your liking), top with fresh dill and serve over arugula and mache.

Tzatziki Lamb Meatball Salad


1 lb ground lamb
1 egg
½ cup flax meal
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, hand mix all the ingredients above and once incorporated shape into 2-inch meatballs and place on a baking tray.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Option: Place meatballs on a skewer and then on the baking tray.

Paleo Tzatziki Dressing


1 Persian cucumber
1⁄2 cup full-­fat coconut milk
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh dill (or one stalk no stem)
1⁄8 tsp sea salt
1⁄8 tsp black pepper


Put all ingredients above in a blender and pulse to combine.

Serve meatballs on a salad of kale, red onion and tomatoes dressed with tzatziki.

Hey readers, are you vegan? We want to hear from you below. How are you addressing your body’s need for omega 3s and what do you think on this issue?

[1] Red Meat Consumption and Mood and Anxiety Disorders
[2] The Smiles Trail

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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  1. This is pretty misleading reporting. For example, you say that “Recent studies show a link between meat consumption and mood, dishing up compelling evidence that those who don’t eat meat are at higher risk for anxiety and depression,” but the second study is a randomized controlled trial of people with poor diets. That means that this study found that dietary intervention (aka healthful eating) improved mental health outcomes. Yes, that dietary intervention included meat, but unless the people enrolled in the study were vegans who then introduced meat into their diets you CANNOT use this study as an example to support the claim that “those who don’t eat meat are at higher risk for anxiety and depression.” That conclusion truly has absolutely nothing to do with the research.

    Also I want to note that I’m not a vegan (so it’s not that I disagree with your premise) I’m just a scientist who finds this to be pretty shoddy reporting. Thanks for trying to include sources in your articles (scientific backing is important!) but please don’t draw broad-sweeping and unsubstantiated conclusions just so that they appear to support your claims.

    What does Kelly LeVeque think about this? She’s a nutritionist so I sincerely hope she’s able to read and interpret an article like this…

    Amanda | 05.24.2017 | Reply
  2. Hello. Thanks for the article, the plant based sources or omega 3 include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, leafy greens and walnuts. So it seems that another study with these foods might be needed. Thanks for creating the convo.

    courtney | 05.25.2017 | Reply
  3. Exactly what Amanda said.

    I found the conclusion that the headline implied (being vegan makes you depressed, eating meat makes you happy) to be very surprising, so I read the abstracts for both of the studies. Yes, the first study showed a correlation between increased meat consumption and lower anxiety scores, but there was no mention of the type of diet that the study participants had. Similarly, the second study was to show the effects of a healthful (nonvegan) diet versus a standard diet, and that eating healthfully helped mental health. Neither of the studies even implied that being on a vegan diet was detrimental to your mental health, because it was not tested as a part of the studies.

    I am not a vegan. I don’t have skin in the game. But this article was really misleading.

    Lucy | 05.25.2017 | Reply
  4. I eat mainly vegetarian and I think what is important to note is the Omega 3’s are vital for health. I ate vegetarian (14 years onwards) out of ethical reasons I tried not to eat meat and ended up with major health problems ad I did not look into nutrition itself. Just 5 years ago I checked into the health aspects and found Omega 3 extremely important (as an anti-inflammatory etc.) -especially for hormonal balance! So whilst I am not a meat eater I thank you for this article as I hope it will make vegans/vegetarians aware that we need to understand how to nourish our system. I am currently checking out Udo’s Oils, Phytoplancton and experimenting with different foods as nuts etc. but I still would like to know what your nutritionists suggest on this subject. Many thanks.

    Danae | 05.26.2017 | Reply

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