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Nutritional Guide to Managing Major Depressive Disorder

Everyone has sad days from time to time. Sadness, after all, is a part of our human existence. Many also feel depressed when they are going through a particularly challenging time in life or at the passing of someone they loved. However, most of the time, these feelings are short-lived, and we tend to bounce back within a short time. When these feelings of sadness tend to persist for an extended period of time, then it might be that you are suffering from major depressive disorder or clinical depression.

Major depressive disorder can disrupt your life to the extent that you lose all interest in your favorite hobbies, have difficulty sleeping, and even experience a dramatic change in your appetite. In such cases, it becomes essential that you supplement your diet with additional foods to ensure that there is nothing lacking in terms of nutrition. While there is no special diet for alleviating the symptoms of major depressive disorder, there are certain foods that can help boost your mood. Here is a complete nutritional guide to managing major depressive disorder.

Nutritional Guide to Managing Major Depressive Disorder

Nutritional Guide to Managing Major Depressive Disorder

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits.(1) If you are not having a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids, then it might become more difficult for you to manage the symptoms of major depressive disorder.(2,3) Not only are fatty acids essential for your overall well-being, but they can also benefit in the following ways:

  • Boost your mood(4)
  • Reduce inflammation in the body
  • Improve your heart health
  • Lower the risk of cancer

Many studies have found that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to depression and mood swings.(5,6) This is why it is vital that you include the following foods that are known to be excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Fatty or oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna(7)
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Soybeans
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed

Keep in mind, though, that just increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids alone cannot make a dramatic improvement in your depression symptoms. However, if you are already taking an antidepressant, then increasing the intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can make a significant improvement.

You can also consider taking an omega-3 supplement, but only after talking to your doctor since a supplement may interact with your prescribed depression medication.

B Vitamins

B group vitamins have many vital roles to play in your body, and a deficiency in vitamin B6, B12, and folate are known to increase the risk of major depressive disorder. These B vitamins are known to have a direct impact on your mood and brain. A deficiency of these vitamins is likely to occur if you do not eat sufficient foods rich in B vitamins or, in some cases if you have a medical condition that makes it difficult for your body to absorb these vitamins. This is commonly observed in digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.(8,9)

If a vitamin B deficiency is suspected, your doctor will order a test to check the levels of vitamin B. If necessary, then recommend that you take a vitamin B supplement. At the same time, if you have major depressive disorder, then you should modify your diet to include foods that are rich in B vitamins. These include:

  • Beetroots
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Almonds
  • Liver
  • Lentils
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry or other lean meats
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk


Selenium is a trace mineral known for its powerful antioxidant properties, which helps protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.(10)

Low levels of selenium are also associated with depression.(11) Due to its potent antioxidant properties, selenium is essential for brain function, which is why a deficiency in this trace mineral can lead to low moods and eventually, depression.

Studies have found that taking a selenium supplement along with an antidepressant can help get faster relief from your depression symptoms.(12) At the same time, it is also good to increase the intake of selenium-rich foods such as:

  • Cheese
  • Poultry
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • White or brown rice
  • Couscous
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Yogurt
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Egg noodles
  • Seafood such as oysters, bass, tilapia, sardines, crab, and salmon.


Clinical depression can be challenging to deal with, but there are several ways to improve the symptoms of this debilitating condition. Enhancing your nutritional intake with these beneficial foods can help you get help from your symptoms, but at the same time, you should not stop taking your prescribed medications unless your doctor advises. Modifying your diet and adding these mood-boosting foods can help you correct any dietary deficiency that may be worsening your symptoms. However, it is always better to speak with your doctor first.


  1. Simopoulos, A.P., 2002. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Journal of the American College of nutrition, 21(6), pp.495-505.
  2. Grosso, G., Galvano, F., Marventano, S., Malaguarnera, M., Bucolo, C., Drago, F. and Caraci, F., 2014. Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: scientific evidence and biological mechanisms. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2014.
  3. Appleton, K.M., Sallis, H.M., Perry, R., Ness, A.R. and Churchill, R., 2015. Omega‐3 fatty acids for depression in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11).
  4. Jacka, F.N., Pasco, J.A., Henry, M.J., Kotowicz, M.A., Nicholson, G.C. and Berk, M., 2004. Dietary omega-3 fatty acids and depression in a community sample. Nutritional neuroscience, 7(2), pp.101-106.
  5. Osher, Y. and Belmaker, R.H., 2009. Omega‐3 fatty acids in depression: A review of three studies. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 15(2), pp.128-133.
  6. Freeman, M.P., 2009. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 70, pp.7-11.
  7. Kris-Etherton, P.M., Harris, W.S. and Appel, L.J., 2002. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation, 106(21), pp.2747-2757.
  8. Kuroki, F., Iida, M., Tominaga, M., Matsumoto, T., Hirakawa, K., Sugiyama, S. and Fujishima, M., 1993. Multiple vitamin status in Crohn’s disease. Digestive diseases and sciences, 38(9), pp.1614-1618.
  9. Kupper, C., 2005. Dietary guidelines and implementation for celiac disease. Gastroenterology, 128(4), pp.S121-S127.
  10. Battin, E.E. and Brumaghim, J.L., 2009. Antioxidant activity of sulfur and selenium: a review of reactive oxygen species scavenging, glutathione peroxidase, and metal-binding antioxidant mechanisms. Cell biochemistry and biophysics, 55(1), pp.1-23.
  11. Pasco, J.A., Jacka, F.N., Williams, L.J., Evans-Cleverdon, M., Brennan, S.L., Kotowicz, M.A., Nicholson, G.C., Ball, M.J. and Berk, M., 2012.
  12. Dietary selenium and major depression: a nested case-control study. Complementary therapies in medicine, 20(3), pp.119-123.
  13. Scapagnini, G., Davinelli, S., Drago, F., De Lorenzo, A. and Oriani, G., 2012. Antioxidants as antidepressants. CNS drugs, 26(6), pp.477-490.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 15, 2021

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