Antidepressant Food Scores: Foods to Help Fight Depression

Certain nutrients may be beneficial for preventing and treating depressive disorders. For example, some nutrients can promote the expression of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor and exert an effect on neuroplasticity. Certain nutrients can also modify the gut microbiota, which may regulate mood, anxiety, and cognition. While it’s exciting to learn about the effect of these nutrients, it’s not so practical in our day-to-day living because we eat foods – not nutrients in isolation! While dietary patterns like the Mediterranean diet or traditional Japanese diet are excellent ways to incorporate a range of these nutrients, they may not be suitable for everyone. So, how can you apply mood-boosting nutrients into a dietary pattern that you prefer?

Fortunately, an evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression was created which allows for exactly that – identifying the foods that contain the most of these beneficial nutrients. This profiling system analysed foods to identify their antidepressant nutrient density, or in other words, the density of nutrients known to play a role in preventing depressive disorders. Foods were given an Antidepressant Food Score according to their antidepressant nutrient density.

Which nutrients are related to the prevention of depression?

In this study, the authors found that there were 12 nutrients that met the criteria to be considered Antidepressants Nutrients and relate to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders. They were:

  • folate
  • iron
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • selenium
  • thiamine
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamins C
  • zinc

Which foods scored well?

The authors found that vegetables had the highest mean Antidepressant Food Score at 48%, followed by organ meats at 25%, fruits at 20%, seafood at 16% and legumes at 8%. Specifically, oysters and mussels, seafood, and organ meats had the highest scoring for animal foods whereas leafy greens, lettuces, and cruciferous vegetables scored high for the plant foods. A couple considerations however is that the data was based on a 100g serving of foods in their raw forms and cooking methods can alter nutrient content. Additionally, the bioavailability (how much we absorb) varies between different foods such as plants vs. animal foods.  See below for some of the top scoring foods based on their Antidepressant Food Score!

The Takeaway

Traditional dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean diet or traditional Japanese diet are an excellent way to incorporate gut-healthy foods that support mental health. However, these dietary patterns may not be for everyone. Incorporating the high scoring Antidepressants foods shown above into any dietary pattern that emphasises whole foods may help to support your mental health!



 [1]      LaChance LR, Ramsey D. Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry 2018.


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