Nutritional deficiencies can wreck havoc on your body, and we know this! But, we often fail to pay attention the mental toll of eating a diet full of nutritional deficits. For instance, depression is often strictly thought of as biochemical-based or emotionally-rooted but modern neuroscience research proves this to false.

Nutritional practices and factors are intertwined with human emotion, behavior, and cognition, to such a degree that nutritional deficiencies can dictate the onset, severity, and duration of depression. While a diet rich in a variety of nutrients is key to your overall mental well-being, certain vitamins have been directly correlated with depression.

Top Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Depression

Portrait of young depressed girl with eating disorder

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to reducing inflammation and play a crucial role in overall brain function. According to a major study by the Lipids in Health and Disease, there is a strong association between omega-3 fatty acids and major depressive disorders. In fact, dietary and nutritional lipids influence your vulnerability and likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms.

To boost your omega-3 fatty acid consumption, try incorporating:

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Natto (fermented soybeans)
  • Hemp seeds
  • Cod liver oil

Vitamin D

According to recent medical research, vitamin D and depression are intimately connected. The reason? Vitamin D receptors are found in many parts of the brain, where they receive chemical signals. These receptors are located in the areas of the brain linked to the development of depression.

A lack of vitamin D has been linked to being depressed, an increased likelihood of developing depression or exacerbating pre-existing depressive symptoms. To combat these depressive disorders with the help of vitamin D, getting outside and exposed to natural sunlight ought to be a top priority. However, if you’re unable to catch some rays, try adding more of these foods to your diet:

  • Mushrooms
  • Tofu (ideally, sprouted and organic)
  • Fatty fishes, like salmon and tuna


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Magnesium is essential to brain biochemistry. In fact, when your body is even slightly deficient in this nutrient, it’s more susceptible to different types of depression and mental health issues. The reason lies in magnesium’s role in regulating your central nervous system’s excitability, and therefore, without adequate amounts of this nutrient, you’re more susceptible to issues like clouded thinking and depression.

If you’re serious about your mental health, dietary magnesium should never be compromised. Get enough magnesium with these foods:

  • Dark leafy greens (like spinach and kale)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Avocados
  • Quinoa


Zinc plays a pivotal role in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress throughout the day. Specific the depression, the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry found that zinc supplementation improved major depressive disorders more effectively than their placebo counterparts. Getting enough zinc is critical for both preventing mental illness, as well as reducing the adverse symptoms of depression. Try incorporating more of these foods to feel the difference:

  • Spinach
  • Kidney beans
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Garlic
  • Lima beans
  • Egg yolks


Low levels of iron have long been correlated with depression – and other mental illnesses. While an iron deficiency is unlikely to be the sole instigator of depression, it can increase and exacerbate its symptoms, like a loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, and mood swings. To ensure you’re getting enough iron into your diet, make the following foods a top priority:

  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Cooked spinach
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans


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