Best supplements for anxiety and depression

Best supplements for anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are rated by the World Health Organisation as the leading causes of disease burden amongst high income countries. In England, 1 in 6 people experience anxiety and/or depression in any given week [1].

Treatments range from cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to medication. But could taking supplements for anxiety and depression help protect and support your own mental health?

A 2023 study found that people who maintained a broad range of healthy habits, from a good diet full of micronutrients to greater levels of physical activity, were significantly less likely to experience episodes of depression, even among those with genetic variants that made them more susceptible[2].

There’s also evidence that eating a poor diet can impact mental health. In one 2022 study of over 10,000 adults in the United States, the more ultra processed foods (UPFs) participants ate, the more likely they were to report mild depression or feelings of anxiety[3]. A Brazilian study from 2022 even suggested a link between eating UPFs and increased risk of cognitive decline[4].

The high cost of living

We live in challenging times with many of us living with tiredness, anxiety, stress, depression and sleep problems.

It seems that this rise in mental health issues over the past years has coincided with a radical change in diet. Our diets are no longer the nutrient dense ones of yesteryear but are often made up of processed and refined foods which lack the essential nutrients for our minds and bodies to function optimally.

Along with this change of diet, we have experienced a change in our environment, and are exposed to more pollution both chemical and social, which our minds and bodies have to process and deal with on a daily basis.

Defining anxiety and depression

Anxiety is characterised by agitation, restlessness and a racing mind, and it’s common to experience these feelings when under stress. Anxiety can be one of the symptoms of depression, along with feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration, loss of energy, fatigue, thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death, loss or increase of appetite and weight, a disturbed sleep pattern, and slowing down (both physically and mentally).

Depression and anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors such as psychological issues, hormone imbalances or disrupted brain chemicals, and may be triggered by major stress or traumas.

Hormone imbalances and disrupted brain chemicals can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, and there are specific nutrients that play a positive role in cognitive health. So, let’s look at the best supplements for mental health.

Supplements for anxiety


Magnesium, which is found in green leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate, plays an important role in the body and is involved in over 300 different chemical reactions. With many diets now lacking magnesium due to food processing, it has been shown that a deficiency in magnesium contributes to several mental health problems, including anxiety[5].

Famously known as mother nature’s muscle relaxer[6], magnesium often features heavily on ‘best supplements for anxiety’ lists because it calms the nervous system, something that can help soothe fear, irritability, and restlessness - all common symptoms of anxiety. Our muscles hang on to so much tension, which makes eating magnesium-rich foods or taking magnesium as a supplement a super-healthy and easy way to create a feeling of calm.

B Vitamins

B-vitamins are some of the most commonly researched vitamins for quelling anxiety. They can be found in a variety of foods including whole grains, meat, fish, dairy, eggs and dark green leafy vegetables. Many experts argue that they’re one of the best vitamins for anxiety relief, and that supplementation may reduce symptoms.

B-vitamins work best in conjunction with one another, but each vitamin helps anxiety in a slightly different way.

Fluctuating blood sugar levels can affect our mood and have a significant impact on stress, but vitamin B1 is particularly important for balancing blood sugar[7] and plays a powerful factor in anxiety levels. Low blood sugar levels will cause the body to produce cortisol, a stress hormone.

Vitamin B3, or niacin, helps us to relax and to get to sleep quicker at night. This is because it plays a crucial role in the synthesis of serotonin [8], the ‘happy neurotransmitter’, which itself is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone the body produces to help us fall asleep.

Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is known to elevate mood and reduce anxiety as it is required for the manufacture of stress and sex hormones produced in your adrenal glands[9], It is often referred to as ‘the anti-stress vitamin’.

Taking vitamin B6, in combination with magnesium, can lead to a significant reduction in anxiety as well as lessening the nervous tension, irritability and mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS)[10].

Supplements for depression


Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for normal brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids are known as essential fats because our bodies can’t make them, and so we need to include them in our diet. It has been known for some time that depression has been linked with a diet low in omega-3, and countries that consume a lot of these fats have lower incidence of this condition.

Research has shown that fish oil, which is rich in the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, can be as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of depression [11]. One theory as to what makes omega-3 one of the best supplements for depression is down to the interplay between EPA and DHA themselves. For example, while DHA plays a role in developing neurons, EPA is crucial for chemical signalling between brain cells and can influence levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin[12].


It has always been good advice to ‘eat your greens’, because dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, chard and spring cabbage contain high amounts of folate. It has been demonstrated that people with depression tend to have lower blood levels of folate and lower dietary intake of folate compared to people without depression[13].

Eating more folate-rich foods or including folate in your supplements for depression is a great idea, but the way this micronutrient works to support mental health is still not fully understood. One theory is that folate deficiency impairs the metabolism of the 'feel good' neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline[14].


Zinc is often lacking in processed foods and vegan diets as major sources of this essential mineral are meat, fish and poultry. Although zinc is present in plant foods, its uptake by the body may be compromised when compared with zinc derived from animal produce.

In the body, the highest amount of zinc is found concentrated in the brain, and it has been found that zinc deficiency can lead to symptoms of depression[15]. Zinc plays a part in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress.


Iodine, which we obtain in our diets from fish, shellfish and iodised salt, is critical for the optimum functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid affects the body in many ways, from our energy levels to our immune function and our brain performance.

Iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones, and it is found that people who have an under-functioning thyroid gland can often feel very depressed [16].


The final micronutrient on our list of minerals and vitamins for depression and anxiety is selenium. Just like iodine, selenium is important for thyroid function. With one of the best food sources being Brazil nuts, it’s another essential mineral that people can be deficient in.

Selenium is a necessary mineral to activate thyroid hormones, to manage the body’s metabolic rate, as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, mood and bone maintenance.

Anxiety and depression supplements FAQs

Before we answer some common questions about vitamins and supplements for anxiety and depression, it’s worth pointing out the obvious. Mental health is complicated. Everyone's experience of anxiety and depression is different, so it's hard to know exactly what causes them - and just what will help those who are currently suffering.

Stressful life events, genetic vulnerability, social isolation, poor diet, hormone imbalances, disrupted brain chemicals and the frantic pace of life are just a few common causes of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. It's believed that several of these forces interact.

While addressing deficiencies of essential fats, vitamins and minerals through diet and supplementation can help, they are never a substitute for medical care, which may include medication and therapy. It’s always best to connect with your GP or a mental health professional for more support if you start to experience new, uncomfortable feelings, changes in your energy and motivation, or any other unusual symptoms. It’s also essential to discuss any new supplement with a healthcare professional to ensure that it’s safe for you and fits your needs.

Can vitamins really help with anxiety?

Natural ways to reduce anxiety and stress suggested by the NHS include getting more physical activity, improving your sleep hygiene and meditating[17]. However researchers are discovering that nutrition may play a more important role in mental health than previously thought, particularly if you’re deficient in certain micronutrients.

It’s important to remember that no two people with anxiety are the same. For example, some people experience physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations or restlessness, when they’re stressed or anxious, while another may be physically calm but have uncomfortable, restless thoughts.

Trying supplements for anxiety such as magnesium may help a person with physical symptoms to ease physical tension, as it is thought to calm the nervous system. But, this same supplement might not be effective for someone with emotional symptoms.

What is the best vitamin for anxiety and depression?

Unless you have a deficiency, there is no single best supplement for anxiety and depression. But it’s worth noting that deficiencies of certain nutrients can be commonplace in the West. For example, a study from 2020 found that half of the US population is thought to be deficient in magnesium, due to a diet high in processed foods[18]. This has important consequences when you consider magnesium’s key role in calming the nervous system.

If you don’t suspect a deficiency, eating a broad range of high-quality nutrients, including omega 3, is the key to ensuring that your diet is helping to support your mental health.

What to look for in anxiety supplements

While taking supplements is not a substitute for a healthy diet, the best anxiety supplements can help prevent deficiencies if your lifestyle leaves you at risk of becoming depleted. Restricted diets, drinking alcohol, and taking medication can all affect how well we’re able to absorb the nutrients in our food.

Taking a good quality multivitamin, such as Inessa’s award-winning Advanced Daily Multivitamin shuttles a regular supply of premium quality nutrients in their most absorbable forms to where your body needs them most. Taken daily, it’s an easy, achievable way to fill in any nutritional gaps, helping to support your mental wellbeing

Omega 3 is another everyday mental health essential that isn't so easy to get in our everyday diets. There’s only so many times you can eat fish per week, plus there are worries about the levels of contaminants they contain.

Taking a high quality formulation such as Inessa Advanced Omega 3 fish oil means you can achieve the clinical doses that nutritional studies recommend for good mental health. And all with the peace of mind that you’re taking something easy to absorb, ultra pure and free from toxins such as mercury.

Here are a few things to look out for before investing in a supplement for anxiety or depression.

Quality - are all ingredients included in the clinical doses that make a difference to your health? Does it include meaningful doses in just one tablet, or will you have to take multiple capsules to achieve that? Are ingredients included in their most bioavailable forms? 

Third party testing - is your chosen product tested for purity? Does it have any certifications by third-party organisations such as the well-respected Vegan Society or IFOS when it comes to Omega 3?

Testimonials - does your chosen product come recommended by reviewers or experts? Is it award-winning?

Can I take supplements along with my prescription medication?

Some supplements interact with prescription medications and interfere with their effectiveness. Examples of common interactions include supplements like St John's wort and 5-HTP which may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome associated with selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs) such as Prozac.

If you're taking prescription medication and want to take vitamins for anxiety and depression, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements, as some nutrients may be contraindicated with your medication.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might like How to detect the signs of burnout.


[1] McManus, S. Bebbington, P. Jenkins, R. et al. (2016) ‘Mental health wellbeing in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2014’ Leeds: NHS digital.
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[6] D’Angelo, E. Singer, H. Rembold, C. et al. (1992) ‘Magnesium relaxes arterial smooth muscle by decreasing intracellular Ca2+ without changing intracellular Mg2+’ J Clin Invest 89(6);1988-1994.
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[11] Jazayeri, S. Tehrani-Doost, M. Keshavarz, S. et al. (2008) ‘Comparison of therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine, separately and in combination, in major depressive disorder’ Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 42(3);192-198.
[12] De Vries, S. Christophe, A. and Maes, M. (2004) ‘In humans the seasonal variation in polyunsaturated fatty acids is related to the seasonal variation in violent suicide and serotonergic markers of violent suicide Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 71(1);13-18.
[13] Bender, A. Hagan, K. and Kingston, N. (2017) ‘The association of folate and depression; a meta-analysis’ Journal of Psychiatric Research 95;9-18.
[14] Bottiglieri, T. Laundy, M. Crellin, R. et al. (2000) ‘Homocysteine, folate, methylation and monoamine metabolism in depression’ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 69;228-232.
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Post author

Shona Wilkinson

Shona Wilkinson is a Registered Nutritionist who works as an independent consultant and health writer for national magazines and broadsheet newspapers as well as frequently being invited to speak on national radio. She advises nutritional brands and retailers on the health industry market, compliance and product development.