Foods to Avoid when taking Sertraline: 7 Foods Not To Eat when taking Zoloft

Antidepressants always come as a relief when you have depression or anxiety. However, “foods to avoid when taking Sertraline” has become a common question at our Boston clinic for one too many persons. Today, we will go through the 5 foods that you should not eat while also exploring the multiple foods that can be beneficial when taking Zoloft.

You should always contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have symptoms of a sertraline food interaction. This could include worsened side effects like dizziness or drowsiness. It could also include serious side effects like heart rhythm changes or agitation when taking the medication after a meal.

Related: Foods to Avoid When Taking Carvedilol (Coreg)


Foods to avoid when taking Sertraline

When taking sertraline (Zoloft), there are certain foods and substances such as grapefruit and grapefruit Juice, Chocolate, Alcohol or tobacco, and Tyramine-rich foods you may want to avoid or consume in moderation due to potential interactions or side effects. These include:

  1. Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice: Grapefruit can interfere with the way sertraline is metabolized, potentially leading to higher levels of the medication in the bloodstream.
  2. Chocolates: While there’s no direct interaction between chocolate and sertraline, some individuals may be sensitive to caffeine, which is found in chocolate, and it could potentially exacerbate anxiety or sleep disturbances.
  3. Alcohol or Tobacco: Alcohol can intensify the side effects of sertraline, including dizziness and drowsiness. It’s best to limit alcohol consumption or avoid it entirely while taking the medication. Smoking tobacco can also affect the way sertraline is metabolized in the body.
  4. Tyramine-Rich Foods: Tyramine is an amino acid found in certain foods and beverages. While the interaction between tyramine-rich foods and sertraline is less common, excessive consumption of tyramine-rich foods (e.g., aged cheeses, cured meats, and some alcoholic beverages) could potentially lead to a rare but serious condition called serotonin syndrome when combined with sertraline.
  5. Excessive Caffeine: High caffeine intake may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and restlessness, so it’s a good idea to moderate your caffeine consumption while on sertraline.
  6. Highly Processed, Sugary, or Fatty Foods: A balanced diet can positively impact mood and overall well-being. While there’s no direct contraindication, consuming a diet high in processed, sugary, or fatty foods may not support your mental health as effectively.
Foods to avoid when taking Sertraline

It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance on your diet and potential interactions with sertraline, as individual responses and needs may vary. They can provide recommendations tailored to your specific health and medication regimen.

1. Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice

Avoiding grapefruit and grapefruit juice when taking sertraline is advisable because these substances contain compounds that can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize the medication. Grapefruit compounds inhibit specific enzymes responsible for breaking down sertraline in the body, leading to higher concentrations of the drug.

While it’s not always clear how this interaction might affect each individual, the increased drug levels can elevate the risk of experiencing unwanted and potentially serious side effects. To ensure the safe and effective use of sertraline, it is generally recommended to steer clear of grapefruit and its products during your medication regimen.

If you are taking Zoloft and also consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice, it is highly recommended that you do not make any changes to your grapefruit intake without consulting your doctor. In the event of any change, whether it is an increase or decrease in grapefruit or grapefruit juice consumption, inform your doctor immediately. They may need to adjust your Zoloft dosage accordingly.

Avoid alcohol when taking Zoloft

2. Alcohol

Avoiding alcohol when taking sertraline (Zoloft) is recommended due to potential interactions and the risk of exacerbating medication side effects. While Zoloft itself isn’t known to directly interact with alcohol, alcohol can interact with many medications and enhance their side effects.

It’s essential to note that there’s no established safe level of alcohol consumption when taking sertraline, and the medication’s labeling recommends abstaining from alcohol altogether. Combining Zoloft and alcohol can increase the likelihood of experiencing side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, and worsened depression and anxiety symptoms. Zoloft causes diarrhea in 10% of patients who have Sertraline prescribed and alcohol can exacerbate that.

To ensure your safety and the effectiveness of the medication, it’s advisable to discuss alcohol consumption with your healthcare provider, who can guide how much, if any, is safe to consume while on sertraline.

3. Tyramine-rich foods

It is crucial to avoid consuming tyramine-rich foods while taking sertraline. This is because the interaction between these foods and the medication can significantly increase the risk of developing a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.

The symptoms of this condition include nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, loss of coordination, overactive reflexes, increased body temperature, a fast heartbeat, and high blood pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms while taking sertraline, seeking immediate medical attention is essential.

Tyramine-rich foods such as soy sauce, cured meat, sauerkraut, aged cheeses, and certain varieties of wines and beers can trigger this dangerous reaction. Therefore, it is best to limit or avoid consumption of these foods and beverages while taking sertraline to ensure your safety and well-being.

4. Tobacco

Similar to alcohol, avoiding tobacco when taking Zoloft (sertraline) is advisable for several reasons:

  • Potential Interaction: While Zoloft itself does not directly interact with tobacco, the use of tobacco can affect how medications are metabolized in the body. Smoking tobacco can induce certain enzymes in the liver that are responsible for breaking down drugs, which can impact the effectiveness of Zoloft.
  • Increased Risk of Side Effects: Tobacco smoke contains numerous harmful chemicals that can exacerbate some of the side effects associated with Zoloft, such as dizziness, sleep disturbances, and dry mouth. Smoking can also contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory issues, which may further compound these side effects.
  • Mental Health Implications: Smoking is often associated with an increased risk of developing or worsening mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Combining tobacco use with Zoloft treatment may counteract the medication’s benefits in managing these conditions.
  • General Health Risks: Smoking is a well-documented health risk, contributing to a range of serious health conditions, including heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. Quitting tobacco is generally considered a significant step toward improving overall health and well-being.

For individuals taking Zoloft or any medication, it’s advisable to discuss tobacco use with a healthcare provider. They can provide guidance and support to help you quit smoking or manage its impact on your medication and overall health.

5. Chocolate

It’s recommended to avoid consuming chocolate when taking Zoloft (sertraline) as the combination can lead to serotonin syndrome, which is a condition caused by the overstimulation of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin syndrome can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, agitation, rapid heart rate, and changes in blood pressure.

Serotonin Syndrome can be a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. This is due to the interaction between the caffeine in chocolate and the medication. To ensure the safety and effectiveness of Zoloft, it’s best to avoid chocolate and other caffeine-containing food items while on the medication, as they can increase the risk of specific side effects.

Some of the chocolate and caffeine-containing foods and drinks include cola, chocolates, and energy drinks. These are not recommended when taking most antidepressants.

6. Highly processed, sugary, or fatty foods

It is advisable to avoid highly processed, sugary, or fatty foods when taking Sertraline (Zoloft) for several reasons. Such foods can reduce the effectiveness of Zoloft by interfering with the absorption of the medication in the gastrointestinal tract. In contrast, a balanced diet can have a positive impact on mood and overall well-being.

Although there is no direct contraindication between these foods and Zoloft, consuming a diet high in processed, sugary, or fatty foods may not support your mental health as effectively. This is because these foods can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, mood swings, and low energy levels, which can counteract the mood-stabilizing effects of the medication.

Therefore, it is generally recommended to follow a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats to optimize the benefits of Sertraline and promote mental well-being. You should also take lots of water or healthy fluids as you take your medication.

7. Dairy Products

Dairy products can interfere with the absorption of the medication, potentially leading to decreased effectiveness. Dairy contains calcium, which can bind to Zoloft in the stomach and intestines, forming complexes that are poorly absorbed. This can reduce the amount of Zoloft that enters the bloodstream and reaches its target in the brain, which in turn may lead to suboptimal therapeutic outcomes.

To ensure that you are getting the maximum benefit from Zoloft, it’s generally best to take the medication as prescribed, typically with or without food, but avoiding high-calcium foods and supplements that may hinder its absorption. If you have concerns about dietary interactions with Zoloft, it’s important to discuss them with your healthcare provider, who can guide how to optimize your treatment plan.

What is the best diet while taking sertraline?

Maintaining a healthy diet is key to avoiding sertraline weight gain. Eating balanced meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help you stay full longer and keep your energy levels up. A balanced diet is essential when taking Sertraline (Zoloft), particularly in light of the potential for weight gain as a side effect of the medication. Weight gain is a common concern among individuals on antidepressants, including Sertraline, and it can contribute to various health risks. Here are some dietary recommendations to consider:

  1. Eliminate Western Diet Habits: The Western diet, characterized by high levels of processed meats, saturated fats, refined grains, sugar, and alcohol, is associated with an increased risk of weight gain while on Sertraline. It’s advisable to gradually transition away from these dietary habits, which can be challenging but necessary for maintaining overall health.
  2. Avoid High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Foods and beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup, such as soda, candy, and sweetened yogurt, should be eliminated from your diet. These items often have hidden sugars that can contribute to weight gain.
  3. Increase Adiponectin-Rich Foods: Adiponectin is a protein hormone that plays a role in regulating various metabolic processes, including those related to weight. Foods that can help increase adiponectin levels include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil. A Mediterranean-style diet is associated with higher levels of adiponectin. Foods with a low glycemic index (GI) and high fiber content can also help increase adiponectin.
  4. Incorporate Fiber-Rich Foods: Diets rich in fiber can have a positive impact on weight management and overall well-being. Consider adding fiber sources such as chia seeds, basil seeds, steel-cut oats, and butter beans to your meals. Other common examples of fiber-rich foods include whole grains, legumes (beans and lentils), fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oats. Fiber-rich foods are essential components of a healthy diet that provide numerous health benefits. They are plant-based foods that are high in dietary fiber, which is the indigestible part of plants that offers various advantages for digestion, weight management, and overall well-being.
  5. Opt for Low-Glycemic Foods: Low-glycemic foods, like steel-cut oats and zucchini noodles (zoodles), can help regulate blood sugar levels and support weight control. Other examples of low-glycemic foods include non-starchy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower), whole grains (e.g., quinoa, steel-cut oats), legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas), and some fruits (e.g., berries, apples). Low-glycemic foods are items that have a relatively low glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels after consumption. These foods are typically digested and absorbed more slowly, leading to a gradual and steady increase in blood glucose. Low-glycemic foods are often recommended for individuals looking to manage blood sugar, control appetite, and support overall health.

The key to a successful diet while taking Sertraline is to make gradual and sustainable changes to your eating habits. It’s essential to focus on whole, unprocessed foods, limit added sugars, and prioritize foods that promote satiety and a healthy weight.


When taking Sertraline (Zoloft), it’s advisable to avoid certain foods and substances that can potentially interact with the medication or exacerbate its side effects. These include avoiding grapefruit and grapefruit juice when taking Zoloft due to their impact on drug metabolism, high-tyramine foods that may lead to serotonin syndrome, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine-containing items, chocolate, and dairy products that can hinder medication absorption.

Additionally, maintaining a diet rich in highly processed, sugary, or fatty foods may not be conducive to your mental health and may contribute to weight gain. A balanced diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, fiber-rich options, and low-glycemic choices can support your well-being while taking Sertraline. Always consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance on dietary choices and interactions with your medication.


Does sertraline and bananas interact?

Sertraline and bananas do not interact and thus it is safe to take bananas when taking Zoloft. Even though bananas contain tryptophan which is a chemical that can be converted into serotonin in your body, it is not available in high quantities to cause side effects or any interactions. It is OK to eat bananas while taking Zoloft.

What drinks to avoid with sertraline?

When taking sertraline, it’s advisable to avoid drinks that can interact with the medication or exacerbate its side effects. These include alcohol, grapefruit juice, and excessive caffeine-containing beverages, as they can impact the effectiveness of the medication and lead to unwanted reactions.

Does sertraline and coffee interact?

To date, there have been no interactions found between caffeine and Zoloft. However, both sertraline (Zoloft) and coffee might stimulate the bowel causing discomfort in the gut or diarrhea. Too much consumption of coffee can also lead to serotonin syndrome as current research shows. Therefore, take coffee in moderation when taking sertraline.

Can I have one cup of coffee with Zoloft?

Yes, you can have one cup of coffee with Zoloft. As a Doctor who has done all research on anxiety and depression, I have noted that most people who take antidepressants don’t need to cut out caffeine completely. You can therefore take caffeine in moderation while taking Sertraline.

Dr. David Barlow

David is a well-known researcher and author in the anxiety disorders area with extensive research on their etiology, nature, and treatment. He started the site to share his real-life experiences on the management of anxiety disorders with successful diagnosis and treatment being his motivation to write or review the content on this site.