“Tears are the summer showers to the soul,” the English poet Alfred Austin is to have said.

I agree with ole Alfie– there is something quite therapeutic about a good cry.

As someone who seems predisposed to melancholy (hello, GRE word!) however, I know something is up when the tears prove more frequent than the laughter, which I imagine Austin would think even more valuable to the soul.

Because of my interest in nutrition, though, I tend to favor food and nutrient remedies, rather than the pharmaceutical treatments that abound. That is not to say that SSRI’s and other antidepressants are a load of bunk, but I have never personally found them to be helpful.

What can a person do, then, to counteract depression?

Plenty, as it turns out.* There are quite a few nutrient deficiencies that any decent, holistic-minded health provider should test depressed patients for, some of which I’ve highlighted below. I did not include amino acid supplements like L-Tyrosine or herbal treatments like St. John’s Wort, but information on the subject is plentiful on the Interwebs for those interested.

Nutritional remedies for depression:

Source and studies referenced here

1. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 is a co-factor (read: helpful assistant) to the enzymes that convert tryptophan into serotonin (a prominent “feel good” neurotransmitter) and tyrosine into norepinephrine, a chemical whose deficiency has been implicated in depression.

A severe B6 deficiency is rare, but minor deficiencies are more likely, and there is evidence that lower levels of the vitamin are common in depressed individuals. Get your fill of B6 in meats, whole grain products, vegetables, nuts and bananas.

2. Folic acid

In a 1980 study, folate concentrations were found to be significantly lower in patients with depression than in those who were not depressed. Furthermore, depressed patients with low folate levels exhibited higher depression scores on the Hamilton Depression Scale than depressed patients with normal folate levels. Sounds like incentive enough to stock up on folic acid, found in foods like leafy vegetables (spinach, turnip greens), legumes, liver and liver products, baker’s yeast, fortified grain products and sunflower seeds.

3. Vitamin B12

In a study that examined depressed individuals with a B12 deficiency, intravenous administration of this Super Vitamin resulted in marked improvement of symptoms. B12 supplements also helped a group of women struggling with postpartum psychosis. Look to fish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk and milk products for B12.

4. Vitamin C

Perhaps a surprising player in lessening depression symptoms, Vit. C is a cofactor for tryptophan-5-hydroxylase, which catalyzes the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Rely on the old standards for your Super C– citrus fruits, as well as papaya, bell peppers and broccoli.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiencies can be responsible for a variety of unpleasant symptoms– poor attention, restlessness, insomnia, dizziness. Depression also finds its place on this list. Studies have found that magnesium levels are lower in depressed individuals than in control subjects, and that intravenous administration of the mineral led to a resolution of depressive symptoms. Try halibut, tuna, artichokes, grains like buckwheat and oat bran, as well as nuts for quality sources of magnesium.

6. Omega-3 fatty acids

Fun fact: in countries with higher fish consumption (think Japan and Taiwan), the depression rate is 10 times lower than in North America. Postpartum depression is also lower in such countries. Get adequate amounts of omega-3’s in cold water fish like salmon, sardines and achovies. Vegetarian omega-3 sources include flaxseeds, walnuts and soybeans.

There you have it, folks. One more tool to help ease depression and foster happiness, and it’s as close as your fridge and pantry!

* Full disclosure: I am not (yet!) a Registered Dietitian or health provider of any sort, so don’t take my word for the above. Instead, talk to your GP about making these simple dietary changes, which, at the very least, won’t harm you.