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Depression and Diet

Dr. Laura Tanzini

I found this article in one of my doctorate program folders and found it interesting and thought that I would share.  Some of the information is dated and I’m sure there are more current articles but the information is interesting.  When you are struggling with depression, you will need an arsenal to combat it so that you feel better.  Eating foods that help lower depression levels may belong in that arsenal.  Dr. Laura

Can what you eat help improve your mood or cause depression? Here are some facts that can help you understand the relationship between depression and diet.


Folate may help to improve mood by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body. This is important because homocysteine prevents blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain, and interferes with the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine—all regulators of mood, sleep, and appetite. Folate is found in:

  • Liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Lean beef
  • Potatoes
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Citrus fruits
  • Peanuts
  • Dried beans
  • Wheat germ
  • Peas
  • Strawberries

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids might increase the volume of gray matter in the parts of the brain responsible for regulating emotions. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Tuna
  • Flaxseed
  • Canola oil
  • Soy nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Butternuts (similar to walnuts)

Vitamin D

Vitamin D aids in the production of serotonin. Vitamin D is found in:

  • Fish-liver oils
  • Fortified milk
  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Canned sardines
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Fortified cereal


Magnesium deficiency, although rare, may lead to depression, according to some sources. Magnesium is found in:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts, especially cashews and peanuts
  • Legumes
  • Cereal
  • Dark-green vegetables
  • Milk
  • Wheat germ

References and recommended readings

Williams E, Stewart-Knox B, Bradbury I, et al. Effect of folic acid supplementation on mood and serotonin response in healthy males. Br J Nutr. 2005;94:602-608.

Bottiglieri T, Laundy M, Crellin R, Toone BK, Carney MW, Reynolds EH. Homocysteine, folate, methylation, and monoamine metabolism in depression. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2000;69:228-232.

Guttersen C. Mind/body connection, Available at: http://www.calolive.org/nutritionists/findings/findings_2004q4.html. Accessed October 4, 2008.

WebMD. Vitamin D may ease depression: low blood levels of vitamin D may be linked to cause of depression. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20040803/vitamin-d-easedepression. Accessed October 4, 2008.

Eby GA, Eby KL. Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67:362-370.

Cox RH, Shealy N, Cady RK, Veehoff D, Awell MB, Houston R. Significant magnesium deficiency in depression. Available at: http://www.oasisadvancedwellness.com/learning/magnesium-deficiency-depression.html. Accessed October 4, 2008.

Review Date 11/08



Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.