Is Good Nutrition Really The Key To Battling Depression?

June 10, 2020 by  

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Although many people are aware of the link between nutrition and physical health, most don’t understand the correlation between nutrition and mental well-being.

Just as a healthy diet filled with essential nutrients and fatty acids can promote health and fight physical illness, the same can be said of mental illness.

So is good nutrition really the key to battling depression? Read on to find out.

What is Depression?


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the most common mental illnesses globally is depression (source).


Depression is a mental disorder which is associated with a number of different symptoms including increased sadness and/or anxiety, depressed mood, lack of appetite and a lost desire to participate in pleasurable activities.


If there is no intervention, this disorder can have serious consequences. Many sufferers of depression experience suicidal tendencies and often these symptoms are treated with psychotherapy or antidepressants (source).


Deficiencies in neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin are thought to play a major role in depression and suicide (source).


One way to effectively manage this is by understanding the key role nutrition plays in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders.


Understanding Nutrition, Depression and Mental Illness.


One notable feature in the diets of those suffering from mental illness is a severe deficiency in several essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids (source).


Research to date has shown that daily supplementation of these essential nutrients can significantly improve a patient’s symptoms (source).


In fact, for a lot of people, noticeable food patterns occur both before and after depression sets in including a poor appetite or skipping meals entirely as well as a strong desire for sweet foods (source).


Many essential nutrients affect our mood, some more than others and all in different ways.


Vitamin B


Neurotransmitters are incredibly important in the human body. They are messengers in the brain, controlling everything from mood to appetite and they are heavily influenced by the foods we eat every day.


B vitamins including folic acid (B9), niacin (B3) and pyridoxine (B6) all work with amino acids to produce the hormone serotonin, considered the “feel good” hormone.


As you can imagine, a deficiency in B vitamins can lead to extremely low levels of serotonin, thus, affecting your mood and leaving you feeling down. Over time this can significantly increase and lead to depression.


In fact, studies have shown that patients supplemented with folic acid and vitamin B12 display decreased symptoms of depression (source)


Ways to get more vitamin B include:


  • Legumes

  • Whole grains

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Eggs

  • Chicken

  • Red meat

  • Milk


Omega 3 Fatty Acids


Researchers have found that the decrease in consumption of omega 3 fatty acids from fish throughout several cultures including America, is linked to an increased trend of major cases of depression (source).


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two main omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil, have been shown to exhibit antidepressant properties in humans. Clinical studies have in fact shown that omega 3 supplementation can effectively treat depression (source).


Ways to get more omega 3s into your diet is to eat fresh, wild fish twice weekly, some of which include:


  • Wild salmon

  • Trout

  • Sardines

  • Albacore tuna


Amino Acids


Amino acids are the building blocks of protein as well as the building blocks of life.


There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are classed as essential, meaning the human body is unable to produce them alone and must obtain all essential amino acids through dietary sources.


Amino acids have a role in numerous functions throughout the body as well as the production of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitter dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and the neurotransmitter serotonin is made from tryptophan (source).


Without the correct level of amino acids, these neurotransmitters cannot be synthesized which can lead to low mood and aggression in patients.


To get more amino acids into your diet, eat meals rich in protein including:


  • Poultry

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Lean meat

  • Nuts




As you can see, science confirms that good nutrition really is the key to battling depression. By ensuring your diet is rich with the correct nutrients, you can significantly affect your mood by the action of neurotransmitters in your brain.

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About The Author

Helen Sanders is the chief editor at - A site dedicated to healthy ideas and general wellbeing. 

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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