What are the best vitamins for depression?
A growing body of research shows how our diet and nutrition influences our depression risks and depression symptoms.
Right now, an estimated 1 in 6 people in the UK are experiencing depression, anxiety, and other common mental health concerns. And while counselling, therapy, and antidepressant medications remain the most effective treatments of depression, your diet and nutrition play a role, too. In this article, we’ll look at the best vitamins for depression.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with depression, talk to a medical professional about how the following nutrients may help you to feel better, balance your mood, and restore your sense of optimism, hope, and wellbeing.
The role of nutrition and your mood
"Nutritional psychiatry" refers to the growing field of research that's investigating how your diet, along with the vitamins and minerals that you take, impacts your mental health.
And these nutritional psychiatrists say the evidence is clear that there’s a link between depression and nutrition.
For example, one study has found that those who eat a Mediterranean diet have a far lower risk of developing symptoms of depression. However, there’s some debate on which comes first—diet or depression? After all, it’s hard to work up the motivation to eat a healthy diet when you’re feeling stressed, fatigued, and depressed.
Likewise, the exact mechanisms by which diet influences your brain and mental health is complex. Current research offers numerous suggestions.
Certain vitamins and minerals may help to promote higher levels of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals.
Some antioxidants and nutrients help with the production of neurotransmitters, and the ability for your brain’s cells to properly function (for example, the neurotransmitter dopamine is made from tyrosine, an amino acid found in the protein you eat).
Specific foods and nutrients may help your body and brain to better cope with stress, which in turn creates a buffer for your mental health
Regardless, there’s a strong link between what you eat, and how you think. So it’s time to rethink your diet and the best supplements for depression.
Anti-depression diet: Foods, minerals, and best vitamins for depression
Eat a balanced, varied diet
Vitamin and mineral supplements can help fill any gaps in your diet, but it’s critical that you start with a wholefood, healthy diet to lay a strong foundation for your mental health.
Unfortunately, researchers say that the standard Western diet—filled with sugar, processed foods, and saturated fats—may actually be a factor in rising rates of depression.
In a meta-analysis of 21 different studies from 10 countries around the world, scientists found a clear pattern for what to eat if you want improved mental health and a lower risk of depression:
Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
Focus on whole grains
Avoid meat, with the exception of fish
Cook with olive oil
Avoid high-fat dairy
In contrast, the meta-analysis found higher risks of depression if you eat the standard North American and Western European diet of:
Refined and processed grains
So if you’re looking to adjust your diet, these are the best vitamins and nutrients for depression.
Fatty fish and omega-3 supplements
Researchers warn that most adults don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet. These are healthy fats found in fish like salmon or herring, and there’s strong evidence linking high omega-3 intake with improved brain health and mental health.
A meta-analysis of 19 studies found that people diagnosed with major depressive disorder saw improved symptoms when taking omega-3 supplements.
It appears that the effects of omega-3s work with other forms of depression, too. For instance, randomised control trials with nearly 700 pregnant and postpartum women found that omega-3 supplementation significantly improved postpartum depression.
An estimated 1 billion people have a vitamin D deficiency. And similar to how the so-called “sunshine vitamin” may help with seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression linked with colder, darker winter days), there’s reason to believe that for general depression, vitamin D can be helpful.
Studies have found that people with depression tend to have much lower levels of vitamin D. That same study notes that correlation does not mean causation. However, researchers propose that vitamin D is one of the vitamins that may help with depression because it:
Is necessary for mood regulation.
May reduce inflammation in the brain.
May protect against brain health problems that could contribute to mental health concerns.
There are eight different types of B vitamins, and all are important for your brain health and mental health.
For example, B6, B12 and B9 lower your levels of the amino acid known as homocysteine, and high homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of dementia and other brain health concerns.
All of the B vitamins also assist in the formation of important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which can enhance mental health and improve your mood.
It appears that the effects of B vitamins on depression may be helpful both for prevention and for treatment.
Magnesium is often referred to as “nature’s chill pill,” and that name is justified. This essential mineral plays a role in the process of activating your parasympathetic nervous system. It also helps maintain a healthy amount of GABA—a neurotransmitter that calms excitement in the central nervous system and aids relaxation.
In one randomised study, taking magnesium for six weeks led to a significant improvement in depression symptoms.
Finally, magnesium may also help to promote a deeper, higher quality level of sleep. As many people with depression struggle with sleep, this can also be helpful.
Keep in mind that magnesium may affect how your body absorbs other vitamins and minerals.
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Do even the best vitamins for depression and anxiety actually work?
It's important to seek direct help from your doctor if you think you may be depressed. Everyone experiences depression differently, and the best treatment plan is one tailored directly to your needs and circumstances.
When you meet with a medical professional, they will often ask you about your lifestyle (e.g., exercise, sleep habits, work schedule, etc.) and diet. Talk to them about your dietary concerns and current supplement routine, and whether vitamins that help with depression would work in your situation.
If you’re worried that you aren’t getting the best vitamins for depression and optimal brain health, try the Heights Smart Supplement. Our top-rated formula of 20 key minerals and vitamins for tiredness and depression, including vitamins D, omega-3s, and B vitamins. These nutrients target everything from poor sleep to brain fog and stress so you feel better, every day.