44 antidepressant foods you should know

In September 2018, researchers in Canada published a study in World Journal of Psychiatry showing a connection between depression and food intake.

The researchers analyzed over 200 studies published during a 70-year period beginning in 1946 for the role the following 34 essential nutrients played in depression:

  • Arsenic
  • Biotin
  • Boron
  • Calcium
  • Carotenoids
  • Choline
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Dietary fibre
  • Fluoride
  • Folic acid
  • Iodine
  • Omega-3s
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum
  • Niacin
  • Nickel
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Pyridoxine
  • Riboflavin
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Silicon
  • Sulfates
  • Vanadium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Zinc


12 antidepressant nutrients

After their analysis, the researchers narrowed the list down to just 12 nutrients, which they labelled as “antidepressant nutrients”. These 12 nutrients had emerged in the published research as nutrients that positively impacted depression when consumed regularly. The 12 nutrients that seemed to have antidepressant qualities are:

  1. Folate
  2. Iron
  3. Long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA)
  4. Magnesium
  5. Potassium
  6. Selenium
  7. Thiamine
  8. Vitamin A
  9. Vitamin B6
  10. Vitamin B12
  11. Vitamin C
  12. Zinc

44 antidepressant foods

After isolating the 12 nutrients connected to lowering depression levels, the researchers compiled the top 20 plant and animal whole food sources for each nutrient. After eliminating duplicates from these top 20 food lists, the researchers ended up with 213 foods with these nutrients. They added 23 commonly recommended healthy foods (such as whole wheat, blueberries, and yogurt) to end up with 236 foods in total.

The researchers then calculated the antidepressant nutrient density for each of those 236 foods, functionally resulting in a nutrient density score, which they labelled Antidepressant Food Score. The following list contains the foods with the best Antidepressant Food Score, starting with the highest.

Fruits and vegetables Meats
Watercress 127% Oyster 56%
Spinach 97% Liver and organ meats (spleen, kidneys, or heart) 18–38%
Lettuces (red, green, romaine) 74–99% Poultry giblets 31%
Mustard, turnip, or beet greens 76–93% Clam 30%
Swiss chard 90% Mussels 28%
Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, or parsley) 73–75% Octopus 27%
Chicory greens 74% Crab 24%
Pummelo 69% Goat 23%
Kale or collards 48–62% Tuna 15–21%
Peppers (bell, serrano, or jalapeno) 39–56% Smelt 20%
Pumpkin 46% Fish roe 19%
Dandelion greens 43% Bluefish 19%
Cauliflower 41–42% Wolffish 19%
Kohlrabi 41% Pollock 18%
Red cabbage 41% Lobster 17%
Broccoli 41% Rainbow trout 16–17%
Brussels sprouts 35% Snail or whelk 16%
Acerola 34% Spot fish 16%
Butternut squash 34% Salmon 10–16%
Papaya 31% Herring 16%
Lemon 31% Emu 16%
Strawberry 31% Snapper 16%

After the researchers compiled the 44 antidepressant foods, they highlighted a few important points regarding the current American (or Western) diet:

  • 27.2% of American adults eat 3 of more servings of vegetables per day
  • 10–20% of Americans eat 3 servings of seafood per week.
  • Traditional diets (such as the Mediterranean diet) commonly contain top scoring antidepressant foods
  • Many individuals do not meet the RDA of several antidepressant nutrients, for example:
    • 55% of Americans do not meet the RDA for vitamin A
    • 75% of Americans do not meet the RDA for folate
    • 68% of Americans do not meet the RDA for magnesium

This is one more study in a growing body of research showing a connection between what we eat and our mental health. Here at Truehope, we’ve been promoting nutrition as mental health treatment for over 20 years.

Did you know that Truehope EMPowerplus Advanced contains 11 of the 12 antidepressant nutrients listed above? EMPowerplus is an all-natural combination of 36 vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants specifically formulated to support physical and mental well-being. Also, being the subject of over 30 clinical trials makes it the most independently researched micronutrient formula in the world.