Systematic Review
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2018. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Psychiatr. Sep 20, 2018; 8(3): 97-104
Published online Sep 20, 2018. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97
Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression
Laura R LaChance, Drew Ramsey
Laura R LaChance, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON M5T 1L8, Canada
Laura R LaChance, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5T 1R8, Canada
Drew Ramsey, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, United States
Author contributions: LaChance LR and Ramsey D designed and conducted the research, performed the analysis, wrote and edited the paper.
Conflict-of-interest statement: No potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Laura R LaChance, BSc, MD, Academic Research Lecturer, Research Scientist, Staff Physician, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 250 College Street, 7th floor, Toronto, ON M5T 1L8, Canada.
Telephone: +416-5358501
Received: April 28, 2018
Peer-review started: April 28, 2018
First decision: June 6, 2018
Revised: June 12, 2018
Accepted: June 29, 2018
Article in press: June 29, 2018
Published online: September 20, 2018

To investigate which foods are the most nutrient dense sources of nutrients demonstrated by the scientific literature to play a role in the prevention and promotion of recovery from depressive disorders.


A systematic literature review was conducted to derive a list of Antidepressant Nutrients from the 34 nutrients known to be essential for humans using level of evidence criteria. Nutritional data was extracted for a subset of foods with a high content of at least 1 Antidepressant Nutrient using a USDA database. These foods were analyzed for Antidepressant Nutrient density resulting in an Antidepressant Food Score (AFS). Plant and animal foods were analyzed separately.


Twelve Antidepressant Nutrients relate to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders: Folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc. The highest scoring foods were bivalves such as oysters and mussels, various seafoods, and organ meats for animal foods. The highest scoring plant foods were leafy greens, lettuces, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables.


The AFS is based on a nutrient profiling system devised to identify foods with the highest nutrient density of nutrients with clinical evidence to support their role in depressive disorders. This list of foods and food categories with the highest density of the 12 Antidepressant Nutrients, the Antidepressant Foods, should be considered by researchers in the design of future intervention studies and clinicians as dietary options to support prevention and recovery from depression disorders.

Keywords: Depressive disorder, Mental disorders, Diet, Diet therapy, Food

Core tip: The Antidepressant Food Score was designed to identify the most nutrient-dense individual foods to prevent and promote recovery from depressive disorders and symptoms. Results can be used to inform the design of future research studies or clinical dietary recommendations. This tool is based on a systematic literature review, evidence-informed list of Antidepressant Nutrients, and nutrient density calculation. The highest scoring animal foods were bivalves such as oysters and mussels, various seafoods, and organ meats. The highest scoring plant-based foods were leafy greens, lettuces, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables. These foods can be integrated into any dietary pattern.