While vitamin and mineral supplements like vitamin D or magnesium can’t treat depression, they may help relieve symptoms.

An assortment of brightly colored and healthy foods, including butternut squash, salmon, bell pepper, beans, nuts, seeds, and berriesShare on Pinterest
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Most people say they feel better if they eat a nutritious and balanced diet. On the other hand, for some people, poor nutrition may contribute to the onset or severity of depression.

One of the most common mental disorders, depression affects about 322 million people worldwide.

It’s a serious but highly treatable mental health condition characterized by:

  • increased sadness
  • loss of appetite
  • low mood
  • loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • significant changes in sleep
  • increases or decreases in appetite, weight, or both
  • psychomotor agitation or retardation (i.e., your mental and physical activities either hightened or slowed down)
  • frequent fatigue or low energy
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • thoughts of death or suicide

While depression treatment typically entails medication, therapy, or both, self-help strategies, including dietary supplements, may work as an addendum to traditional treatment to help reduce symptoms.

To keep in mind

It’s generally recommended to get your vitamins and other nutrients through the foods you eat. Research on the effectiveness of vitamin supplements for depression is often mixed, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Therefore, it’s vital to speak with your treatment team before trying a supplement to discuss safety, ideal dosage, and possible medication interactions.

If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone

You can access free support right away with these resources:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for English or 888-628-9454 for Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24-7.
  • Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
  • Deaf Crisis Line. Call 321-800-DEAF (3323) or text “HAND” at 839863.
  • Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
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Depression has been linked to low levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your body), including:

In some cases, nutritional deficiencies can alter or worsen these important mood-boosting chemicals.

Keep in mind that research is often mixed or lacking on whether taking a vitamin supplement is effective in increasing the production of neurotransmitters and reducing symptoms of depression.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often low in people with depression and other mental disorders. For example, research shows that in people over 65 years old, those with depression were 14% lower in vitamin D than healthy individuals.

Exposure to sunlight accounts for more than 90% of the vitamin D requirements for most people, but in some cases, a supplement may be needed, particularly for those who live farther from the equator.

Good sources of vitamin D include:

  • exposure to sunlight (5–30 minutes at least twice a week)
  • cod liver oil
  • flesh of fatty fish like trout, salmon, or tuna
  • mushrooms
  • fortified milk
  • egg yolk
  • fortified cereals

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so taking excessive amounts can be toxic. In extreme cases, vitamin D toxicity may lead to kidney failure or an irregular heartbeat.

Medications that may interfere with vitamin D include:

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin required for a healthy central nervous system, red blood cell formation, and DNA synthesis.

A deficiency in B12 has been linked to psychiatric symptoms, such as:

In one 2013 study conducted in Pakistan, the vitamin B12 blood levels of 199 people with depression were screened. Deficiency was found in 22% of the participants, and 36% were found to be in the low range standard levels.

Participants with low levels of vitamin B12, as well as some with lower standard levels, were given prescriptions for B12 replacement therapy along with antidepressants. At a 3-months follow-up, all participants in the treatment group showed at least a 20% reduction in depressive symptoms.

Good food sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • beef liver
  • clams
  • tuna
  • fortified yeast
  • milk
  • yogurt
  • fortified cereals

Vitamin B12 has a low risk of toxicity because it’s water-soluble and the body doesn’t store it in excess amounts.

Medications that can interfere with vitamin B12 include:

Folate (B9)

Folate, or vitamin B9, is the generic term for naturally occurring food folates as well as folates found in supplements and fortified foods. While some people use the terms folate and folic acid interchangeably, folic acid (pteroylmonoglutamic acid) refers to the synthetic form of vitamin B9.

Low levels of folate have been linked to depression, and in some cases, a poor response to antidepressants.

In a 2003 U.S. population study of 2,948 people, ages 15 to 39, folate concentrations were significantly lower in people with major depression, compared to those who did not have depression. Plus, a 2020 study found that increased levels of folate and vitamin B12 play a major role in the link between a healthy diet and decreased depression rates.

Good sources of vitamin B9 include:

  • spinach and other dark leafy green vegetables
  • liver
  • asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • black-eyed peas

Medications that can interfere with vitamin B9 include:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid, is a critical vitamin required for several functions in the body, including immune function and the production of collagen and neurotransmitters. It also helps reduce chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which research has shown may play a role in depression.

Good sources of vitamin C include:

  • oranges and orange juice
  • grapefruit and grapefruit juice
  • bell peppers
  • kiwi
  • broccoli
  • strawberries
  • Brussels sprouts

Vitamin C has a very low risk for toxicity.

Medication and treatment that may interfere with vitamin C:

  • chemotherapy and radiation
  • statins

Niacin (B3)

Niacin, or nicotinic acid (NA), is a water-soluble B vitamin critical for many functions in the body, including mood.

Although the average adult needs only about 14 to 16 mg of niacin daily, much higher doses have been shown to help some people with psychiatric disorders. When a person requires such a high dose, it’s referred to as a niacin dependency rather than a deficiency.

Several case studies have shown that niacin can lead to significant benefits in people with severe psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder depression.

In one 2018 case study, a man with bipolar disorder type II had been taking lithium and several other medications to treat his symptoms.

To treat his anxiety, he was prescribed Niaspan (nicotinic acid extended-release) at 1,000 mg twice a day. After 6 weeks, he reported:

At the time of the case study, the man had been taking niacin for more than 11 years. He had been stable and in a good mental health condition all this time without any other psychiatric drugs (he had slowly weaned off his medications).

It’s essential to keep in mind that this was a single case study of bipolar disorder depression. It’s unclear whether supplementing with vitamin B3 may also help people with other types of depression.

Good sources of niacin include:

  • beef and beef liver
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • tuna
  • brown rice
  • fortified cereals

Nicotinic acid, particularly in large doses, can cause skin flushing — a result of the dilation of small blood vessels. This is a harmless — although somewhat uncomfortable — effect that leads to tingling, burning, and itching sensations.

If you want to avoid flushing you can opt for nicotinamide — a niacin supplement with a slightly different chemical structure that does not cause flushing.

Medications that can interfere with niacin include:

  • isoniazid and pyrazinamide (together in Rifater; to treat tuberculosis)
  • antidiabetes medications

Several minerals have been linked to depression. Still, as with vitamins, research is often lacking or mixed on whether supplementing with these minerals may help improve symptoms.


Most magnesium has been removed from the heavily processed Western diet. Only 16% of the natural magnesium found in whole wheat bread remains after the refining process.

Low levels of magnesium can harm your brain and lead to mood problems. There is increasing evidence that severe magnesium deficiencies in the Western diet may be linked to an increased risk for major depression.

One 2015 study found a significant link between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.

Good sources of magnesium include:

  • spinach and other leafy green vegetables
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • seeds
  • whole grains

Medications that can interfere with magnesium include:

  • bisphosphonates (to treat osteoporosis)
  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • proton pump inhibitors


Low levels of zinc have been linked to neuropsychiatric symptoms, including altered behavior and cognition, reduced ability to learn, and depression. Plus, research has shown a possible link between low zinc levels and depression.

In addition, older research indicates that oral zinc can enhance the effectiveness of antidepressant therapy.

Good sources of zinc include:

  • oysters
  • red meat
  • poultry
  • beans
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • fortified cereals
  • dairy products

Symptoms of acute zinc toxicity include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • low appetite
  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea

Medications that can interfere with zinc include:

  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • penicillamine (to treat rheumatoid arthritis)


Calcium dysregulation plays a critical role in nervous system disorders like dementia and depression. One 2012 study found that low dietary calcium was linked to self-rated depression in women ages 41 to 57 years old.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • sardines
  • kale
  • broccoli

Medications that can interact with calcium include:


Low iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, impacting more than 2 billion people. Iron deficiency can lead to:

  • anemia
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • impaired immune function

Research shows that iron deficiency anemia (IDA) — a severe form of iron deficiency — is linked to significantly higher incidence and risks of:

Furthermore, people with IDA who take iron supplements appear to have a much lower risk of psychiatric disorders than people with IDA who don’t take a supplement.

Good sources of iron include:

  • fortified cereals
  • oysters
  • beans
  • spinach
  • beef and beef liver
  • tofu
  • chicken

Iron supplements — especially when taken without food — can cause:

  • nausea
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain
  • faintness

Plus, over-supplementing with iron may reduce zinc absorption and zinc blood levels.

Medications that can interact with iron include:

Other non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements that may help reduce symptoms of depression include:

If you’re interested in more natural remedies for depression, consider reading our in-depth article.

Good nutrition plays a major role in mood, and many people have reduced their depression symptoms with vitamin and mineral supplementation.

Before you try any supplement for depression, it’s important to talk with your treatment team to make sure it’s safe and doesn’t interfere with any medications you’re taking.