12 nutrients that can help you beat depression

Last Updated on March 4, 2022 by Shabnam Sengupta

Depression is caused by a series of factors including genetics, hormones, illness and stress. However, according to researchers, your diet may help to some extent in controlling the level of depression. We are shortlisting 12 essential nutrients that can help you fight depression.

Source of information for this content

Felice Jacka, PhD, an Australian food-and-mood researcher and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, studied foods and nutrients and their effect on human psychology. Her research dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression was published in 2017 in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.
A new updated report that also heavily cites Dr Jacka’s report was published in 2018 in World Journal of Psychology. This new report reviewed 34 essential nutrients, 12 of which were identified to be helpful to prevention and treatment of psychological conditions.


Most of the nutrients (and foods containing them) recommended are healthy for both physical and mental health. They are in general key elements of a healthy, mood-boosting diet. But they won’t replace depression treatment–like therapy, medication, or both.

Nutrients and Food recommendation


Deficiency of Folate (or Folic Acid), also known as Vitamin B9 , has been linked to increased risk of depression. Though Folic Acid is not usually recommended as a medication to treat depression, it may be helpful in improving response to antidepressants.

Foods that contain Folate are:

a) Legumes
b) Leafy green vegetables
c) Eggs
d) Fruits like Banana, Papaya and Orange
e) Vegetables like Beetroot and Broccoli

Watch: How can you get your regular dose of Folic Acid?
Question: Does Folic Acid help in lowering blood pressure?


While iron deficiency alone may not be the cause of depression, it can lead to similar symptoms as depression like lack of appetite, irritability, extreme fatigue, headaches and mood swings. Research has shown that average ferritin level (a marker of stored iron) was significantly lower in depressed people.

Foods that contain iron are:

a) Red meat, pork and poultry
b) Seafood
c) Beans
d) Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
e) Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots
f) Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas
g) Peas

Read: Too much iron can hurt you. Here is how.


Magnesium is one of the most essential mineral in the human body, connected with brain biochemistry and the fluidity of neuronal membrane. It plays an important role in regulating cortisol levels and prevents excess cortisol production due to its ability to calm the nervous system.

A variety of neuromuscular and psychiatric symptoms including different types of depression was observed in magnesium deficiency. There had been reports that over the counter magnesium supplements have helped patients suffering from depression. However, we suggest natural sources of magnesium.

Foods that contain Magnesium are:

a) Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
b) Almond, Cashew, Peanuts
c) Dark Chocolate

Watch: Here are 10 foods that can help your body get Magnesium


Low potassium levels have been associated with greater risk for mood disturbances and depression. Potassium appears to act as a facilitator in ensuring the brain’s ability to properly utilize serotonin, the neurotransmitter primarily targeted by antidepressants.

Foods that contain Potassium are:

a) Dark green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli
b) Potatoes, Pumpkin, Cucumber
c) Banana, Orange and Orange Juice

Question: How does Potassium effect blood pressure?


There is evidence that uneven selenium status is associated with depressed mood. Research has shown that selenium levels that are both too high in the body, and worse, too low, can place young people at greater risk of depression.

Foods that contain Selenium are:

a) Eggs, Chicken, Pork
b) Milk,Yogurt and Cottage Cheese
c) Bananas

Read: Can Selenium help me lose weight?


Vitamin B1, also called thiamine or thiamin, is sometimes called an “anti-stress” vitamin because it may strengthen the immune system and improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions. Low levels of thiamine are associated with higher risk of depression.

Foods that contain Thiamine are:

a) Chicken, Pork, Beef, Fish (Tuna, Trout)
b) White Rice, Brown Rice, Whole Wheat Bread
c) Orange, Apple

Read: How Thiamine (Vitamin B1) can help you cure various lifestyle diseases

Vitamin D

Multiple researches have found correlation between depression and low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D receptors are present in nearly every part of the human body, and so, the ways in which vitamin D might affect your mood are innumerable. One of those mechanisms could be hormonal, since vitamin D helps regulate testosterone levels and low testosterone can impair the mood of men and women.

Foods that contain Vitamin D are:

a) Dairy Products (Milk, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese)
b) Soya Beans, Soya Milk
c) Cod Liver Oil

Question: Can sunscreen cause Vitamin D deficiency in our body?

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 helps the body in making several neurotransmitters and chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another. It is needed for normal brain development and function. It also helps the body to make hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence mood, and melatonin, which helps to regulate the body clock.

Foods that contain Vitamin B6 are:

a) Eggs, Chicken, Pork
b) Bread, Brown Rice
c) Soya Beans, Soya Milk

Watch: Foods that are best source of Vitamin B6

Vitamin B12

B12 is also involved in the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Due to this, their low levels can cause changes in the nervous system.

Foods that contain Vitamin B6 are:

a) Meat, Eggs
b) Milk, Cheese
c) Cod Liver Oil

Question: Can Diabetes increase my risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency?

Vitamin C

The link between vitamin C and mood might seem surprising, but people who have vitamin C deficiency often feel fatigued or depressed. A deficiency in vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, can cause neurological damage, and the addition of vitamin C to the diet can improve or reverse the symptoms of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

Foods that contain Vitamin C are:

a) Citrus Fruits – Orange, Lime, Lemon
b) Red, Yellow and Green Capsicum
c) Lychee, Papaya, Banana

Question: Can Diabetes be controlled by Vitamin C?


Zinc participation is essential for all physiological systems, including neural functioning, where it participates in a myriad of cellular processes. Deficiency of zinc leads to diminished functioning of the brain accompanying episodes of major depression.

Foods that contain Zinc are:

a) Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
b) Peanuts, Cashew, Almonds
c) Beef, Lamb, Pork

Question: How can Zinc help in Weight Loss?

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to have the most potential to benefit people with mood disorders. Omega-3s can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. They also have anti-inflammatory actions that may help relieve depression.

Foods that contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids are:

a) Flaxseed, Chia Seeds, Walnuts
b) Soya Beans, Soya Milk
c) Cod Liver Oil, Fish and Fish Oils

Watch: Foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

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