Foods That Fight Depression: Add These 12 Things To Your Diet

Updated July 14, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety, you may be surprised to discover that your diet can make an impact on your mental illness. While changing your diet might not wholly heal your depression, eating certain things can make a positive influence on mental health. It is always important to discuss treatment options with your counselor or mental health professional. Still, the use of food to fight depression has been studied and proven in various cases.

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What About Food Fights Depression?

Food, itself, does not fight depression. However, specific nutrients play a role in not only treating depression but preventing it, too. In fact, of all the nutrients in foods, there are 12 that seem to make a difference in depression and other mental illnesses. The 12 nutrients that can help include:

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  2. Vitamin A
  3. Vitamin B6
  4. Vitamin B12
  5. Vitamin C
  6. Iron
  7. Folate
  8. Magnesium
  9. Potassium
  10. Selenium
  11. Thiamine
  12. Zinc

By making it a point to add these components to your diet, those struggling with depression and anxiety might see some improvement. What foods should be eaten to include these 12 nutrients? A varied diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and other healthy items can help you to get the nutrients required. Identifying a few items rich in each nutrient category might help you to plan out your meals more effectively for fighting depression and anxiety.

Foods Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish. Fish high in this nutrient include mackerel, salmon, sardines, and cod liver oil. This nutrient can also be found in flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Seaweed and algae are other options, though less common. Walnuts and kidney beans are also great options. With such variety, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet shouldn’t be too difficult. If you find it hard to consume these foods, fish oil can be purchased in pill form and ensures that you get the nutrients necessary to fight depression and anxiety.

Popular Options For Vitamin A

The human body doesn’t produce Vitamin A, so it’s essential to consume the nutrient in your regular diet. Many sources can be eaten to get the proper amount of Vitamin A to effectively assist in fighting depression in all its forms. Egg yolks and milk are common foods that contain this nutrient. Fruit and vegetable options include a variety of squashes, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and papayas. While these foods are essential for Vitamin A consumption, overcooking these items can decrease the nutritional value. Ensure proper cooking to gain the most from these foods.

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Vitamin B6 Food Choices

Vitamin B6 is present in a large number of foods but is far more potent in some foods than others. For example, chickpeas and beef liver have more than double the amount of Vitamin B6 than turkey or boiled potatoes. However, each of these food items is considered to be high in the nutrient. Those looking to increase their B6 intake can also eat tuna, salmon, or chicken breast. Non-meat or fish options include bananas, onions, cottage cheese, rice, and raisins. Vitamin B6 can also be found in a supplement form at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

Foods With Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for the best neurological function. It’s a nutrient that is mostly found in animal products, including eggs, milk, fish, and meat. The foods with the highest levels of B12 are clams, beef liver, trout, salmon, beef, yogurt, and cheese. Vegetarians often find their source of B12 in fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin B12 can also be consumed in pill form, added to the body via patches, or even injected when prescribed by a doctor.

Vitamin C Rich Foods

People often believe that Vitamin C is highest in oranges. Although oranges are high in Vitamin C, several foods contain more than the citrus fruit. Chili peppers, bell peppers, kale, and broccoli contain a large amount of Vitamin C. Other foods higher in the nutrient than oranges are papaya, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, strawberries, kiwi, mango, and pineapple. Drinking orange juice is a great way to increase your Vitamin C intake, but if you wish to go the juice route, consider pineapple juice, mango juice, or even strawberry-kiwi juice.

Foods Rich In Iron

Iron can be found in a large number of food sources, many higher than others. In fact, there are two kinds of iron: heme and non-heme. Where heme iron is absorbed up to 30%, non-heme iron is absorbed by the human body in amounts of or less than 10%. Heme iron comes from animal sources, and non-heme comes from plant-based sources. Foods rich in heme iron are beef, lamb, shrimp, clams, tuna, and eggs. Those with high levels of non-heme iron include spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, strawberries, watermelon, and beans. A diet with a variety of each kind of iron will help the body to absorb everything it needs.

What To Eat for Folate Consumption

Folate, also known as folic acid, is a nutrient that is necessary for brain development. It is often the focus of a pregnant woman’s diet and is believed to play a role in preventing mental health issues. Foods that contain a lot of folates are asparagus, romaine lettuce, and spinach. Other options include beans, eggs, peanuts, and fresh fruits. Whole grains and seafood also contain good amounts of this nutrient. If you find yourself unable to consume enough of this nutrient from food sources, it is commonly consumed via supplements.

Best Things To Eat For Magnesium

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Banana, raspberries, avocado, spinach, kale, nuts, peas, broccoli, cabbage, and salmon are foods that contain a good amount of magnesium. Dark chocolate is a treat that also contains high levels of this nutrient. A magnesium-rich smoothie, such as one containing kale, banana, raspberries, avocado, and nut butter, can help you to increase your intake quickly. A shake containing these items would also serve to increase other necessary nutrients.

Potassium Rich Foods

What foods might you eat to increase your potassium intake? Some of the richest foods in potassium include apricots, bananas, oranges, a variety of beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yogurt, and salmon. Studies have shown that potassium deficiency can add to mental fatigue, serving to worsen depression and its symptoms. Consuming a healthy amount of potassium throughout the day will help to improve your mental health.

What Foods Are High In Selenium?

Many of the best foods for selenium are dairy and whole-grain products. For example, milk, yogurt, and fortified breakfast cereals are excellent sources of selenium. A hearty bowl of cereal in the morning can serve to provide you with a large amount of the necessary nutrients to help with your mental health. Other foods to consider are chicken, turkey, beef, shellfish, and brown rice. It is important to consider eating the proper amount of selenium, but be sure that you do not eat too much. Too much of this nutrient can have a negative effect on the body.

How To Get Enough Thiamine

Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is found in whole grains, fish, and various meats. This is a nutrient that can be lost by overcooking food items, so the foods must be cooked to an appropriate temperature to avoid losing nutritional value. White rice, egg noodles, English muffins, and whole wheat macaroni contain high levels of Thiamine. Fish such as trout and tuna also serve as good sources of this nutrient. Meats that are high in Thiamine are pork and beef. A diet that includes each of these components is sure to be a diet with plenty of thiamine.

Zinc In Food

Zinc is found in a wide array of food sources, from pumpkin seeds to oysters and beef to chickpeas. It’s also found in oatmeal, peas, baked beans, dark meat chicken, pork, yogurt, and milk. There are also supplements available over the counter for this nutrient. A zinc deficiency has also been found to be the cause of numerous psychological disorders and problems. By focusing on increasing zinc intake, people with depression may notice a positive change in both your depression and anxiety.

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Using Food To Improve Mental Health

What you consume and how you feel are two correlating factors. Food fuels your brain, so it makes sense that what you eat has an impact on your mental health. By making an effort to regulate your nutrition, you may discover that your depression and anxiety is far more manageable. If you have doubts, talk to your mental health professional to discover if a healthy diet might help your situation. While decreasing your sugar intake may also prove to have a positive effect on your mental health, adding healthy options is likely easier than you might think.

The use of smoothies, creative recipes, and other tricks can help you to get the necessary nutrients for a real change. If you still struggle with consuming the right kinds of nutrients, taking vitamins and supplements for these components can be a help. It’s also important to remember that if you are struggling with depression, changing your diet alone may not provide the change needed to treat your illness. Always seek professional help if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression.


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