10 nutrients in common foods that may help cure depression

Depression has become as common as the common cold. Everybody seems to have had an episode of depression – from celebrities to school kids. Fortunately, today there is a lot of information available about this mental disorder. There is also a lot of research on how certain food and nutrients present in them can reduce symptoms and be a cure.

Are you depressed? If newspaper reports are any evidence then most of us have been or will be depressed at some time in our life, if not right now. Newspaper reports also indicate that the number of depressive people is on the rise. It is either that or we have begun to understand depression and read the signs of depression better than our predecessors.

Depression is no longer spoken of in hushed tones. Young teens and adults alike are victims of this silent killer that makes them aloof, stripping them of normal human traits. Reasons for depression are plenty, and nutrient deficiencies are also seen as a major contributing factor.

What is depression

Depression can best be described as a mood disorder. It manifests itself in continuous feelings of gloomy sadness and overall absence of interest in life. Other symptoms and signs may include the following –

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Drastic changes in sleep pattern
  • Loss of appetite
  • Substantial weight gain or loss
  • Lethargy
  • Inexplicable aches and pains

What causes depression?

The most common causes and risk factors associated with depression are –

  • Alcohol or other substance abuseHeredity reasons
  • Social isolation
  • Childhood trauma
  • Problems with family/relationship
  • Stress
  • Financial problems
  • Certain medical conditions

Nutritional deficiencies and depression

Recent studies attribute depression to certain nutritional deficiencies. Lack of specific nutrients is seen as a major risk factor for depression. Studies indicate that individuals who suffer from the condition are deficient in many nutrients. What we need to know is that food nourishes not just the body, but also the brain. When diet lacks overall nutrition it impacts not just the physical body, but affects the functioning of the brain, too.

The most significant nutrients that help fight depression

Researchers have identified 10 nutrients as being predominantly significant in controlling depression. Including foods, rich in these nutrients, in the diet, can lower the risk considerably. However, adding the nutrients as chemical supplements must be with the doctor's approval, especially if the patient is on other prescribed medication.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known for their benefits on our cardiovascular health. They reduce LDL levels and promote heart health. They are healthy in many other aspects. For instance, fatty acids have an important role to play in the growth and operation of our central nervous system.

Two main omega-3 fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA is vital for the construction of brain cells and EPA aids the functioning of neurones, and in decreasing inflammation.

According to a 2014 study that finds mention in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, a balanced ingestion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, found aplenty in Omega-3 fatty acids, in combination with dietary supplements that are rich in fatty acids can help prevent and treat depression.

Fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. There is some amount of omega-3 in eggs as well. Vegetarian sources of this nutrient are Flax seeds, nuts like walnuts, and seeds, mainly sesame, sunflower and chia seeds. Omega 3 supplements are easily available but must be taken after consulting a doctor.

Vitamin D

A number of studies reveal that vitamin D deficiency is noticed, among all age groups, but is particularly common among people with chronic health issues, the elderly and individuals who suffer from obesity. This particular groups of people are at high risk of depression.

There is a lot of research on this subject, and a number of them show a connection between a lack of sunlight and disorders that affect the brain. According to these studies, vitamin D affects the synthesis of the brain hormones dopamine and serotonin in the brain. The chemical serotonin is linked to happiness and good mood. Therefore, a deficiency can cause depression.

Spending 15 minutes, a day, in the sun is a good way to get more vitamin D since the body synthesises sunlight into vitamin D. Individuals who cannot get sunlight can get the vitamin from food sources or supplements. The latter must be taken only after the doctor approves it. Foods rich in the vitamin are eggs and fatty fish.


Magnesium has also been a topic of study in the management of depression. There are many reports based on researchers findings that throw light on the positive effect of magnesium in the treatment of depression. A report in the Medical Hypotheses illustrates that one of the prime causes of depression and other disorders linked to the brain is magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium is a vital nutrient as far as mental health is concerned. The mineral is found in various foods such as –

  • Almonds
  • Whole grains
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Bran
  • Avocado
  • Soy products
  • Bananas
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beans

Magnesium is essential for the production of brain hormones, dopamine and serotonin. It stimulates enzymes that boost the production of these chemicals. It is also known to alleviate anxiety and regularise blood pressure.

Excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee, soda, salt and sugar can upset the levels of magnesium in the body.


This essential micronutrient plays a key role in the function of the nerve cells and nerve fibres that process and transmit information. In the presence of zinc, there is a surge in the production and operation of neurotransmitters in the body. The mineral is essential for over two hundred and fifty biochemical processes that sustain vital organs.

Research observes a link between low levels of zinc in blood and depression. Increasing intake of foods rich in zinc can reduce the risk considerably. Good sources of zinc are –

  • Yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts
  • Wheatgerm
  • Whole grains
  • Meat


A study from 2012 reports an increased risk of depression when the dietary intake of selenium is low. Yet another report, from 2015, highlights that ideal selenium levels in blood serum is connected with scarcer symptoms of mood swings and depression, especially among young adults.

It is concluded that selenium enables proper brain functioning, as well as having a positive impact on the mood and signs of depression. It is a strong antioxidant and that makes it a powerful antidepressant.

The best dietary sources are –

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Meat
  • Prawns and other shellfish

Vitamin B12

All the vitamins under the B-group are vital for physical as well as mental health. Vitamin B12 is extremely essential, as it is needed for the development of red blood cells and to maintain a strong nervous system. Homocysteine is an amino acid formed during the breakdown of protein. High levels of this amino acid raise the risk of depression, as well as heart attack and stroke. The B vitamin keeps the levels of homocysteine at a low.

A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to depression since the levels of homocysteine cannot be controlled. Studies conclude that the elderly are more prone to depression caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12. Substantial improvement is observed in patients who are treated with antidepressants and vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be treated by eating –

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Soy products
  • Chicken


Folate or Folic Acid is a B vitamin, found in green leafy veggies, legumes, beans, green tea, fruits, particularly of the citrus variety. The body requires the vitamin for biosynthesis of three key neurotransmitters, namely, adrenalin, dopamine and serotonin. Insufficient folate in the diet can adversely impact mental health, leading to depression.

Supplements of the vitamin in combination with antidepressants have according to studies, proven to have faster healing, in depressive patients.

Vitamin B6

This B vitamin is essential for the making of many chemical substances that the brain requires, but chiefly for the production of neurotransmitters. These work together to uplift the mood. Vitamin B6 maintains the vigour of the nervous system and supports the body with the absorption of vitamin B12.

A 2004 research report associates a drop in the levels of the nutrient with symptoms of depression. The levels of vitamin B6 can be boosted by consuming red meat, fish, chicken, bananas, spinach, legumes, cereals, vegetables and potatoes.


A recent study indicates that anaemia induced by iron deficiency puts patients at a high risk of bipolar disorder and unipolar depression. According to the study iron deficiency also causes ADHD, anxiety disorders, mental retardation and developmental delays in young kids and teenagers.

Women commonly suffer from anaemia because of blood loss during menstruation. This can lead to fatigue and depression. Iron rich foods are a good way to raise iron levels in the blood. Combine iron-rich foods with foods that have a high vitamin C content, to aid better absorption. Foods rich in iron are red meat, spinach, eggs, raisins and seafood.

Amino Acids

There are 9 essential amino acids, and each of them has different functions. The 5-Hydroxytriptophan helps improve the serotonin levels in the body. And the Glutamine supports protein synthesis and boosts the body's nitrogen level. A research shows that individuals suffering from mood disorders and depression exhibited mood enhancement after being administered the amino acid supplements.

The brain uses amino acids to create the neurotransmitters that it requires to function. When amino acids are missing from the diet, the brain misses the neurotransmitters and this reflects in a series of conditions, including anxiety, mood swings and depression.

The body is incapable of producing amino acids and they must be obtained from food sources. Improve your amino acids levels by eating nuts, seeds, beans, eggs and fish.

Word of caution

Though minerals and vitamins and other nutrients are easily available as supplements, they should be taken only after consulting a doctor. It is best to receive the nutrients through natural foods. This article is just for information, and not a medical guide to cure depression. If you or anyone you know suffers from or exhibits signs of depression get medical help. Depression is like any other disease, it is not something to be ashamed of. There are safe and reliable treatments available for depression.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: jenny06 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

Dear Juana, you have neatly explained various aspects of depression and the foods-nutrients that help to cure depression. I would like to add some additional information here.

Thousands are suffering from depression across the globe due to varied reasons and depression has become a global health concern. Research is going on this area which concerns human health, and researchers attribute depression causes to theories related to genetics and abnormalities in biochemistry of brain.

Now-a-days, more and more people are focusing towards age old ancient treatments for curing many diseases. Ayurveda helps in treatments of depressed people by natural approaches which is holistic and integrates treatments of therapies such as natural therapy, yoga therapy etc. The natural methodologies benefits people with depression as it it devoid of any side effects from antidepressants medications.

The Ayurveda doctors advice of eating healthy foods that includes vegetables, fruits, wholesome grains etc. The treatments help in enhancing the well-being of a patient emotionally and physically. Ayurveda treatments include self massaging to calm mood strengthen the body and to soothe the mind..

The treatments includes using herbal formulations to treat people with depression. The herbs that are used in treatments are Brahmi which improves memory, vacha which increases the the clarity in expression of the mind. The using of garlic, ashwagandha and basil are also helpful in reducing mental stress.

The ingredients that we use in our kitchen are store houses of nutrients that help in combating depression. These include cardamom, turmeric, celery seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, gooseberry that help in elevating the mood levels.

It is better always to consult the doctors and seek medical advice and treatments for people suffering from depression. These people also need emotional care and help from family members for overcoming this health issue.

Thanks for sharing the article!

Author: Juana24 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 6

In patients with depression, foods only complement therapy; they are not a treatment for the condition. Medical intervention is always required – this includes medication and counseling. The right foods can help by making the brain produce the right chemicals.

Ayurveda medicines must also be taken with caution. Herbal products though relatively safe can also have side-effects. Only a trusted Ayurveda practitioner must be trusted, the real challenge is in finding one. There are a number of exclusive stores selling Ayurveda medicine, but buying medication without a prescription for a mental condition is not without risk.

Most traditional medicines take the time to work, unlike Allopathic medication, which shows almost instant results. This is another reason people steer away from old-fashioned medicine. But, thanks for your inputs.

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