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8 Nutritional Deficiencies That May Cause Depression

Ms. Sarah Farooqi

2 min read

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We are what we eat. While external factors like environment and work stress are major depression fuelers, a lack of certain minerals and vitamins can also result in depressive moods, low productivity, concentration issues, anxiety, and physical fatigue. Here we look at 8 of the most common nutritional deficiencies that may be fueling your depression:

1-Vitamin D:

Vitamin D deficiency has directly been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder: that emotional void accompanied by feelings of depression and uneasiness during winter. This is because vitamin D is chiefly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, and the reduced daylight hours cause a significant drop in vitamin D absorption.

This coupled with our sedentary, indoor lifestyles causes a severe deficiency of the vitamin, resulting in persistent depression. However, since food sources like egg yolks, tuna, and beef liver contain only trace amounts, the daily requirement of 1000-2000 IU should be fulfilled through 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight exposure.

2-B Vitamins:

In addition to being essential for optimum heart health and a strong immune system, Vitamins B6 and B12, in particular, can cause depression, anxiety, irritability and fatigue in low amounts.

However, unlike vitamin D, the daily B6 and B12 requirements of 1.5-1.7 mg and 2.4 mcg can easily be fulfilled through dietary sources. Leafy green vegetables, chicken, and bananas contain large amounts of vitamin B6, whereas vitamin B12 can be obtained through dairy products, meat, and poultry.


As a powerful stress-reliever, magnesium binds to and stimulates the GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) receptors that halt rapid brain activity and induce relaxation. However, despite being readily available through food sources, the binding ability of magnesium is minimized due to high fluoride content in water and increased sugar, soft drink, antibiotic, and salt consumption; all of which prevent the ingested magnesium from working properly.

Men should aim for 400-420 mg whereas women should take 300-320 mg of magnesium daily from dark chocolate, tuna, salmon, bananas, and almonds to lower depression and anxiety levels.


Appropriate folate levels in the body increase the effects of antidepressants by 44%, making it a staple supplement in most depression treatment plans. Folate or folic acid works to relieve depression and stress by increasing BH4 levels in the brain, which in turn helps produce tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, or the ‘happy’ hormone.

Folate levels can also be increased through diet by consuming a total of 400mcg daily via leafy green vegetables, legumes, avocado, eggs, cooked beans, and beef liver.

5-Amino Acids:

Amino acids are considered the building blocks of protein; the key components of all bodily functions. Considering their leading role in the body’s infrastructure, an amino acid deficiency can cause anxiety, depression, panic attacks, mood swings, seizures, mental fog, and loss of focus.

However, 9 of the 12 required amino acids are not naturally manufactured in the body and must be acquired solely through food sources like eggs, lean meat, and beans.


Iodine directly impacts the thyroid hormone, or thyroxine, which is responsible for optimum brain function and regulating body-wide metabolism. Problems with metabolism can slow down organ function, which then manifests as persistent depression and lethargy.

The daily recommended 150 mcg of iodine can be attained from numerous food sources like iodized salt, egg yolks, saltwater fish, and hard cheeses.


Despite being a trace mineral needed only in small amounts by the body, a selenium deficiency can significantly impact thyroid function, metabolism, and overall mental health. Continued deficiency can therefore contribute towards low moods, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

55 mcg a day from walnuts, chicken, beef, fish, and whole grains, or supplements can help prevent these depressive effects. However, supplements may interact with certain contraceptive medication, corticosteroids, and cholesterol-reducing medication.

8-Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Omega-3 fatty acids found abundantly in tuna, salmon, and other fatty fish improve brain functioning and reduce neural inflammation by preventing trans-fat buildup in the brain. Other food sources of omega-3s include egg yolks, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.

Addressing nutritional deficiencies can have a positive impact on both mental and physical health. Consult with a certified nutrition specialist to determine your specific dietary requirements and develop a rehabilitative diet plan. You can also book an appointment with a top Nutritionist in Islamabad, Karachi and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your dietary concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Ms. Sarah Farooqi
Ms. Sarah Farooqi - Author Ms. Nida Ghani is among the Best Psychologists in Lahore. Ms. Nida Ghani is a Psychologist practicing in Lahore. Over the last 3 years, she has been helping her patients deal with various mental and psychological conditions. You can get an appointment with her through oladoc.

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