Discover how vitamins and minerals that are found naturally in certain foods have been proven to improve symptoms of mood and mental health disorders.

If you’re living with depression, managing symptoms like low moods, lethargy and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy can be challenging. Treatment for depression typically involves therapy and medications prescribed by a physician but making lifestyle changes can also improve symptoms of depression.

Incorporating changes to your diet can naturally help improve the symptoms associated with depression. Changing the way you eat can provide benefits for your mental and overall health.

Vitamins for Depression

Nutrition is linked to human emotions, behavior and cognition, so it’s important to eat a balanced diet when dealing with depression to limit depressive symptoms. While taking supplements to ensure that you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs is a good practice, the body will benefit most from the vitamins and minerals naturally found in certain foods. To know what the best diet for depression is, you should first understand what vitamin deficiencies are responsible for generating depressive symptoms.

Vitamin B

One group of vitamins you need for good mental health are B vitamins. A deficiency in B vitamins could be caused by consuming a lot of alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine or caffeine. B vitamins are essential to the brain because they convert carbohydrates into fuel for the brain. B vitamins also help with the creation of neurotransmitters, which affect a person’s depression.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another important vitamin for managing depression. A lack of vitamin C may cause moods that enable depression, like fatigue and lethargy. A vitamin C deficiency can be caused by the use of tetracycline, aspirin and birth control.

Magnesium and Other Minerals

Other minerals that contribute to reducing depressive symptoms include magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium. Some other nutrients from food that are required for improving mental health include carbohydrates, proteins and essential fatty acids like omega 3 fats.

Vitamin level maintenance isn’t the only part of a diet that affects depression. Eating habits can also contribute to a person’s depressive state. For example, if you’re regularly eating foods high in sugar or food that is overprocessed you may experience more depressive symptoms. Eating junk food late at night may also contribute to fatigue, a symptom of depression, because problems with digestion associated with eating shortly before bed can make sleeping difficult.

Vitamins and eating habits are both crucial to managing depression, but what specific foods are best for reducing depression and boosting positive moods? Understanding which vitamins help with depression symptoms can assist you in choosing foods that elevate your mood.

Best Foods For Depression

Understanding what vitamins and minerals are essential for good mental health can allow you to determine what foods are good for depression. Some mood-boosting food for depression include:

1. Fish

The more oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and tuna have high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats can assist serotonin in the brain by better connecting brain cells to neurotransmitters. The production of serotonin can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

2. Nuts

Several types of nuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids, so eating cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts are a great option for vegetarians or vegans who don’t get their Omega-3 fats from meat.

3. Beans

Another great option for reducing depression is beans because they provide fiber and protein. Fiber and protein are needed to maintain stable and consistent blood sugar levels. Avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels can help you avoid a change in your mood and make it easier to manage depression.

4. Seeds

Certain seeds are another great source of Omega-3 fats. Seeds like flaxseed and chia seeds are small additions you can add to your diet to help reduce depressive symptoms. Seeds like pumpkin and squash seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that produces niacin and serotonin.

5. Poultry

Foods like chicken and turkey are great sources of lean protein that help to regulate your blood sugar levels and avoid blood sugar spikes, which better balances your mood. Chicken and turkey also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which can improve your mood.

6. Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like brussel sprouts, spinach and kale contain one of the three primary Omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In addition to ALA, dark leafy vegetables also contain folate which helps stabilize moods.

Foods to Avoid if You’re Struggling with Depression

Eating a balanced diet is important to your overall health. While it’s important to know what foods to eat to promote good mental health, you should also know what foods to avoid. Some people turn to food when they’re experiencing feelings of depression, but the foods they end up consuming may make their depression worse. Some foods to avoid if you’re living with depression include:


Spikes in your blood sugar can cause changes in your mood, so it’s important to be mindful of food that may have sugars in them like barbecue sauce and salad dressings. Sugar is not always labeled as just “sugar,” so looking out for corn syrup, dextrose and fructose can be helpful if you’re trying to avoid sugar completely.

Refined grains

Foods like rice, pasta and crackers can be harmful to your mental health because these foods have little to no nutritional value and decrease the amount of B vitamins in your body.


Alcohol is a depressant, which means it depresses your mood. Alcohol use disorder and depression can be co-occurring disorders. Alcohol also contains sugars which can negatively affect your mood.

Changing your diet can improve your symptoms of depression. However, sometimes incorporating new ways of eating may not be enough. If you live with depression, it’s important to seek treatment. If depression goes untreated, it can disrupt your life and cause you to consider unhealthy coping mechanisms, like using drugs and alcohol.

If you or someone you know struggles with substance use and a co-occurring disorder like depression, help is available. At The Recovery Village, a team of professionals can create an individualized treatment plan to address your specific needs. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which program could work for you.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.