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What can Nutrition do for Depression?

You know someone who has battled depression

Everyone can name someone

But most of us are woefully equipped to help them

Being a friend to someone who is depressed is one of the greatest things that you can do for them. Beyond support and helping them find a knowledgeable counselor,



Make them a healthy salad and then go for a walk.

Read on.


I am in the thick of my '12 Diets in 12 Months Nutrition Challenge.' I wanted to get first-hand experience with the popular diet schemes out there. Were they worth their mustard? What I found was a far cry than what I expected. In April 2020, after 10 days on a strict VEGAN diet, I was faced with a mental health issue. My brain felt highjacked. I was depressed, and it was scary. Sure, I had been sad before, but that was not the same thing. This was a creature that I had only glimpsed before. Now it stood on my doorstep.

At the urging of my husband and daughter, I stopped the VEGAN diet for a few days. I discovered that returning to my normal diet sent that depression demon packing. What just happened?

Fortunately, I track all my food on and I was able to evaluate the data. I had been taking supplements, so the typical deficits VEGAN encounter were a non-issue. Plenty of B12, zinc, iron and calcium etc. BUT I was not getting the full spectrum of essential amino acids. In fact, my intake of those 9 EAAs was only at 60% of the RDA. As you may know, VEGANs must work to obtain all their essential amino acids. AHA! Problem solved. Since that time, I have been supplementing daily with EAAs and depression has not returned. I thought I had it figured out. I was wrong.

Fast forward to October 2020 on the Whole30 elimination diet. Since it was an elimination diet, I also stopped my supplements. This would be fine, I told myself. I can eat meat and fish which will provide me with enough EAAs. Cronometer agreed. In fact, I had an average of 194% of my EAAs!

But after ONLY 4 days on Whole30, my dark friend reappeared.

I quickly applied the brakes this time. Once again, my symptoms eased as I returned to my normal diet. I turned to the data for insight. I found it.

On Whole30, without supplements, my intake for 4 nutrients suffered:

Calcium, Folate, Vit D and Vit E

Calcium and Vit E were quickly ruled out, as there is not much research or other literature on linking either one with depression.

But there was plenty of research on Folate and Vit D.

I'd like to share that information with you.

Keep in mind as you read this discussion that 'folic acid' is the supplement form of folate.


According to a 2007 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, folate supplementation shows tremendous promise. So much so that they titled their study Folate and depression - a neglected problem.(1) Their review supports the consideration of supplementing depression treatment/meds with 2mg of folic acid. Why? Because folate plays a role in the production of serotonin, our 'feel good hormone.'

I already knew that folate was an important nutrient. When I was at the University of Michigan's Nursing School in the 1980's, we learned about studies where pregnant women were given folic acid and this significantly reduced the incidence of neural tube defects. That's right, spina bifida could possibly be prevented with a supplement. Over the next decade, this simple nutrient, folate, was determined to be so important that countries add it to their food supply.(2) By 1998 it became law in the US to supplement our flour with folic acid. Gotta love nutrition!

Foods that are naturally high in folate

  • dark leafy greens

  • legumes (think chickpeas)

  • eggs

If you're not a fan of those, you can still ensure enough intake by taking a supplement. Folic acid is super cheap - about 5 cents a pill.


Vit D is actually a hormone and most widely known for its role in calcium uptake. It is also well known that exposure to UVB light stimulates your body to make Vit D.(3) New research, such as the 2015 study published in Genes and Nutrition, demonstrates that Vit D spurs the production and even conserves the amount of serotonin in the brain.(4) This result shows promise of using Vit D as a treatment for depression.


I am resuming the Whole30 diet and will take a multivitamin with sufficient folate and Vit D in it. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Isn't it nice to know that food matters? That the right supplement can make a major difference? I hope that our medical system catches up to this kind of integrative medicine practice.

Please, listen to you friend with depression. Help them get the mental health coaching support that they need. Offer them some good food and a walk in the sun. It may just make their day.

Until next time,

~ Be Kind to Yourself


Looking for a health coach? Contact me for a free 30minute consultation.

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