- They say we are what we eat, and that remains true when we consider our thoughts and feelings.
- We have examined the evidence to work out exactly what vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients may be useful in elevating our mood.
Anxiety and depression are on the rise. Anxiety affects over 18% of Americans, and more than 7% of U.S. adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2017. Antidepressant medication is an option for some, but for a large number of people, the best way to improve mental health is to make lifestyle improvements. Exercise is known to improve the symptoms of depression, and vitamins and other natural remedies may play an essential role in mood enhancement.
The best way to approach vitamin intake is to aim for a balanced diet, but sometimes, life gets in the way. Thankfully it’s easy to increase your nutrients with a daily supplement. Remember, though, always speak to a medical professional if you feel you have a serious problem with your mood or suffer from depression symptoms.
What vitamins help elevate mood?
Some vitamins may help regulate your mood, bringing you out of depression and into health naturally.
Vitamin A is found in high quantities in liver and fish oil, but don’t worry if you follow a plant-based diet. It is also available in orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, squash, and peppers, and green, leafy vegetables, including spinach and broccoli. Vitamin A is vital for brain health and immune function, and it plays an essential role in mood and memory activity.
Vitamin C deficiency can lead to feelings of depression and fatigue, and studies have shown that it’s possible to improve your mood by increasing your intake. According to the National Institutes of Health, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green and red peppers, strawberries, and broccoli are some of the best natural sources of vitamin C.
What vitamins help with depression?
Low levels of certain vitamins are associated with depression. Changing your diet to a more nutritious one and, in particular, consuming more B vitamins can help.
Otherwise known as thiamine, vitamin B1 plays a vital role in your body’s energy production. In common with the other B vitamins, high B1 intake is linked to lower levels of depression. Most foods contain small amounts of this vitamin, but some of the best plant-based sources include blackstrap molasses, nuts, wheat germ, and brewer’s yeast.
Vitamin B6 is responsible for creating dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters which help regulate mood. A higher B6 intake may, therefore, lead to lower levels of anxiety and depression, although experts think this may be true in women but not men. Natural, plant-based sources include chickpeas, bananas, squash, and potatoes.
Folic acid, folate, or vitamin B9 are all names given to the essential vitamin that, along with B6 and B12, helps the amino acid called homocysteine, which has links to depression. Some experts recommend B9 supplementation for help with depression, but dietary sources include whole grains, green, leafy vegetables, beans, and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin B12 is one of the easiest B vitamins to become deficient in if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Low levels of this vitamin can lead to fatigue, pale skin, constipation or diarrhea, nerve problems, vision loss, and depression. Taking a daily supplement with B12 will give your body all it needs; however, whether supplementation can actually help with depression remains a subject of research.
Known as the sunshine vitamin since the primary source of it is the sun, vitamin D is essential for your mental health. Deficiency is linked to higher levels of depression, which is why some people suffer from low moods in places where there is less sun. While further study is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplements can actually treat depression, it won’t hurt to boost your intake if you think you may be lacking. Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to boost vitamin D levels but don’t get too much: 10-30 minutes of midday sun several days a week is optimum, though those with darker skin may need a little more, while those with pale skin may need less. Dietary sources of vitamin D include mushrooms and fortified plant milk and cereals.
How can I boost my mood naturally?
Apart from vitamins, there are some other nutrients to look out for if you want to boost your mood.
Magnesium could help with anxiety, according to several studies. It is thought to affect the hypothalamus, which regulates the glands in charge of your stress response. Magnesium can also help you sleep, which is bound to lead to better moods! The best natural sources of magnesium include green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard, cooked beans, and nuts such as almonds and cashews.
This essential mineral may play a role in averting mood disorders. While further research is needed to determine whether supplementation is helpful, it is thought that a zinc deficiency could lead to depressive-like symptoms. Plant-based sources include pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, peas, and kidney beans.
There is a need for further research, but studies support the idea that low levels of this mineral are associated with low mood. Dietary sources include Brazil nuts, whole grains, soynuts, tofu, and pinto beans.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Many experts believe omega-3 fatty acids could help beat depression. These nutrients are mainly said to be found in fish oils and marine algae, but excellent plant-based sources include chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, blue-green algae, and brussels sprouts.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort may be a natural mood enhancer. Historically used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, this herb appears to be just as effective as many prescription drugs. Be careful, though. The Mayo Clinic lists many side effects and interactions with other medications. Always check with your doctor before starting St. John’s wort alongside any other medication.
Blue-green algae such as Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) and spirulina, and single-cell green algae such as chlorella, are packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and amino acids that could help improve anxiety, stress, and depression. AFA is rich in phenylethylamine (PEA). Otherwise known as the love molecule, PEA is thought to work as an antidepressant by affecting your brain chemistry. Chlorella, spirulina, and AFA also contain omega-3 fatty acids and have been linked to better mental health in patients.
While it’s tempting to break down the food we eat into numerous substances, the best thing you can do for your personal nutrition is to follow a balanced diet. All vitamins and minerals are essential in various amounts, so make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. If you are concerned about your low mood or anxiety levels, speak to a medical professional. And before starting any new regime, be sure to ask your doctor about potential side effects.