Yes, they do exist, as a study from Canada published in the World Journal of Psychiatry in 2018 found. Source: doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97

The special thing about this study is that it is the first sewing material profile system ,

  • which was created to provide nutritional recommendations for mental health,
  • so that they can be used by doctors, researchers and patients alike.
  • It can help clinicians guide patients to make healthier food choices today.
  • This list of foods and food categories with the highest density of the 12 antidepressant nutrients should be used by researchers when designing future intervention studies.
  • and should be considered by clinicians as a nutritional option to support the prevention and recovery of depression.
  • Considering the cost, stigma and access, nutritional interventions offer a unique treatment option for the mentally ill.

The aim of this study was to find out which foods have the highest nutrient density and which nutrients play a role in preventing and promoting recovery from depressive disorders according to scientific literature.

For the classification of the results, it is important to know that the following premises applied to the literature research:

  • The databases were searched for the following substances: Arsenic, biotin, boron, calcium, carotenoids, choline, chromium, copper, fiber, fluoride, folic acid, iodine, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexanoic acid and eicosapentanoic acid), magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, nickel, phosphorus, potassium, pyridoxine, riboflavin, selenium, sodium, silicon, sulphates, vanadium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and zinc.
  • 236 foods were recorded for which there is evidence. This means that only those nutrients were included that have been shown in human studies to be beneficial for the treatment or prevention of depressive disorders.
  • Animal and plant foods were considered separately.
  • The data was recorded for a 100 g portion of each food in raw form.
  • Only whole, unprocessed foods with no added sodium or fat were evaluated.
  • Non-English language articles, review articles and opinion pieces were excluded
  • Certain nutrients such as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and heme iron are only found in animal foods such as seafood, meat, eggs and dairy products. These substances were generally not found in the literature analyzed by the authors. This is why there is no information on this in the study.
  • Es wurden keine zu vermeidenden Nahrungsbestandteile wie gesättigte Fette, Cholesterin und Natrium berücksichtigt. (The authors concede, however: “In addition, the harmfulness and potential benefits of nutrients such as saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium to physical and mental health are being questioned based on recent research, and cholesterol is no longer considered a nutrient of concern under the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”)

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. In the animal food category, shellfish such as oysters and mussels, various seafood and organ meats scored the highest. The best plant foods were leafy vegetables, lettuce, peppers and cruciferous vegetables.

Here is the ranking of individual foods:

Animal products

Plant-based products



Liver and organ meat (spleen, kidneys, heart)


Poultry giblets

Mustard, turnips or turnip greens


Lettuce (red, green, romaine lettuce)


Swiss chard


Fresh herbs (coriander, basil, parsley)


Chicory vegetables (chicory, radiccio)





Fish roe

Kale, cabbage



Sea bass

Dandelion green





Rainbow trout

Red cabbage



Spotted fish

Brussels sprouts




Butternut squash







Here is the ranking list of antidepressant food categories:

  • Vegetables
  • Organ meat
  • Fruit
  • Seafood
  • Pulses
  • Meat
  • Grain
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products

The authors of the study emphasize that many of the foods mentioned above are not frequently consumed in the Western diet, but are consumed in traditional diets, such as the Mediterranean diet. The evidence for a link between dietary patterns and depressive disorders supports the consumption of a whole-food based traditional diet as opposed to a Western dietary pattern to prevent and promote recovery from depression.

Another advantage of the traditional diet with foods of high nutrient density is that the daily nutritional requirements can be met without consuming too many calories, which can be beneficial not only for mental health.

Dietary trends are moving towards a plant-based diet, so the higher rates of B vitamin deficiency in vegetarian and vegan populations must be taken into account. For example, recent studies have found higher rates of depressive symptoms in vegetarian men. The study shows that the majority of eaters nevertheless consume animal products. However, there are major differences between highly processed meat and sausage products from factory farming and the animal-based foods mentioned in the study. “Eating animal products such as seafood, organ meats and small amounts of other traditionally farmed, minimally processed meats is an important part of a healthy diet for depression.”

In summary, a nutrient profiling system focused on mental health resulted in a ranking of plant and animal foods according to the nutrient density of the 12 nutrients supported by current evidence: Folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA), magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C and zinc. Evidence-based nutritional recommendations are crucial for the use of nutritional psychiatry in clinical practice. Considering the cost, stigma and access, nutritional interventions offer a unique treatment option for the mentally ill.