I'm A Nutritional Psychiatrist & This One Nutrient Is The Mood-Enhancing MVP

The nutrient that goes by many names.

I'm A Nutritional Psychiatrist & This One Nutrient Is The Mood-Enhancing MVP
Still life of bowls of lentils with kale and walnuts on kitchen tablecloth / linen

Depression can present itself in many forms. One day you may feel anxious; another day you may be completely unmotivated, lacking energy or focus. While the symptoms vary from day to day and among people, the nutrients that can support those moods stay consistent. 

According to nutritional psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, M.D., one of the most valuable mood-supporting nutrients to add to the diet, especially in the case of depression, is vitamin B9 or folate. 

The mood-enhancing benefits of folate. 

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"Low levels of folate have been linked with depression and anxiety," Naidoo says. This is because folate helps make the neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for mood stabilization and pleasure, respectively. 

It's also because folate is involved in the methylation cycle, a biochemical process that's used by every cell in the body for many important functions, like helping to create neurotransmitters, regulate DNA, and produce energy.

The process occurs on its own, and while the first half might go smoothly, the last portion can go awry without the proper nutrients (i.e., B-12 and folate). 

This can lead to the buildup of homocysteine, which researchers suggest could lead to depression. In fact, optimized methylation pathways are related to better neurological health. Simply adding folic acid to the diet (to ensure you're meeting your daily needs of this water-soluble vitamin) will help support a balanced methylation cycle and may also help manage depressive feelings.

Where to get more folate. 

Folate can be found in dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and collard greens, according to Naidoo. It's also found in most other green vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus, and okra.

Along with vegetables, folate is found in lentils, chickpeas, beef liver, and certain fruits, like oranges and mangoes, to name a few. 

If you're not finding folate on any of your nutritional labels, don't freak out—it may be listed as vitamin B9 or folic acid instead. 

Adding folate to your diet may enhance your mood and manage feelings of depression or anxiety. There are plenty of tasty whole food sources that can be part of any meal of the day.


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