I love this topic of how nutrition can impact our moods, as it plays a big part in how we cope with life.

Mind you there are many non-nutrition factors which can affect our moods as well. But if we are to have the best chance of managing our moods, nutrition is important.

This series will delve into some of the whys behind having a balanced and nutrient rich diet. If you have any feedback you would like to share with me, I would love to hear from you! Or if you have a topic you would like me to write about, then please let me know.

In this post we look at:

  • Modifying our mood with food
  • Zinc
  • Zinc calculator
  • 6 Zinc rich recipes.
Our Mood Can be Linked to Our Nutritional Status
Part 1: The role of Zinc in mental health
Low Mood

Having a low mood now and then is a part of being human. But sometimes it can become an ongoing problem which can affect our relationships, or the joy we want to experience. There are obviously many aspects to what affects our moods like hormones, sleep, trauma, habits, but the one I am interested in is food.

With the changes that have occurred over the generations in how we nourish our bodies, it is little wonder that deficiencies have crept in.

The Food Industry

The food industry has been modifying our food for many years to increase the amount that we consume as a society and to boost their bottom line.

This process has led to more and more food becoming nothing but the macronutrients (carb, protein, fat), with very little micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) remaining. In some cases the micronutrients are removed and then put back in to the food just so they can say that the food contains a certain nutrient. I wonder in what form they put them back in? Are they good for us? So it is becoming more obvious that our nutritional status is affected and this in turn does affect our mind.

Research

Research is showing more and more that nutritional deficiencies can play a big part in how we cope with life.

Zinc is one of those nutrients that studies are showing plays a significant role in our mood (Ref: 1).

Zinc is a key mineral that is involved in over 300 functions in the body from neurotransmitters (Ref: 2) to wound healing.

Neurotransmitter Function: Zinc is involved in the balancing of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play a key role in mood regulation (2). A deficiency in zinc can disrupt the balance of these neurotransmitters, potentially leading to mood disturbances like depression and anxiety (1).

Neuroprotection: Zinc is also essential for brain health and may offer neuroprotective effects. It helps protect against oxidative stress, which can damage brain cells and negatively impact mood and cognitive function (3).

Hormonal Balance: Zinc is involved in the regulation of various hormones, including those related to stress, such as cortisol (4). It appears that low zinc can affect cortisol levels and therefore increase the stress response (5).

Mental Health Disorders: Some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, have been associated with lower zinc levels in the body (6). While zinc supplementation is not always beneficial ensuring adequate zinc intake as part of a balanced diet is essential.

Can I have too much?

The short answer…YES. Don’t take a supplement unless your doctor recommends it!

Getting enough zinc is not always as simple as eating a zinc rich diet either. Medications (including those used for mental health issues), how our digestive system is functioning, hormones, stress, inflammation amd genetics all play a role in how well we are able to use the zinc in our diet.

So for some of us a supplement may be necessary. If your diet is low in zinc, then increasing zinc rich foods will be of benefit. The recommended daily intake of zinc is 11mg for men over 18, and 8mg for women over 18. This is higher in pregnancy and breastfeeding women.

Meats, fish and poultry are the major providers of zinc, with some found in dairy, eggs and grains. Animal based proteins make it easier for our body to absorb than non-animal proteins (7).

Foods high in zinc include:
  • oysters,
  • beef,
  • oats,
  • pumpkin seeds,
  • pine nuts,
  • yoghurt,
  • lentils,
  • turkey,
  • edamame (soy) beans,
  • crab,
  • eggs,
  • hemp seeds,
  • sardines,
  • cocoa powder (not much per teaspoon, but it’s worth a mention ) (8).
eggs, avocado and spinach

I’m sure you can see some foods that you are already having.

You can use my Zinc calculator to see what your zinc status is. If it is low, you can make adjustments.

If your diet is showing a sufficient amount of zinc, but your testing is showing you have low zinc levels it would be worth investigating why. You could also see a dietitian to help with your dietary zinc.

Next time, we will look at Omega 3 fats and their role in mood.
Check out the recipes below, that are rich sources of Zinc!

References:

[1] Petrilli MA, Kranz TM, Kleinhaus K, Joe P, Getz M, Johnson P, Chao MV, Malaspina D. The Emerging Role for Zinc in Depression and Psychosis. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Jun 30;8:414. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00414. PMID: 28713269; PMCID: PMC5492454.

[2] Gower-Winter SD, Levenson CW. Zinc in the central nervous system: From molecules to behavior. Biofactors. 2012 May-Jun;38(3):186-93. doi: 10.1002/biof.1012. Epub 2012 Mar 31. PMID: 22473811; PMCID: PMC3757551.

[3] Li Z, Liu Y, Wei R, Yong VW, Xue M. The Important Role of Zinc in Neurological Diseases. Biomolecules. 2022 Dec 23;13(1):28. doi: 10.3390/biom13010028. PMID: 36671413; PMCID: PMC9855948.

[4] Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R, Baltaci SB. Review: The role of zinc in the endocrine system. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2019 Jan;32(1):231-239. PMID: 30772815.

[5] Ali Azargoonjahromi, A systematic review of the association between zinc and anxiety, Nutrition Reviews, 2023;, nuad076, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuad076

[6] Wang J, Um P, Dickerman BA, Liu J. Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium and Depression: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms and Implications. Nutrients. 2018; 10(5):584. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050584

[7] National Health and Medical Research Council. (n.d.-j). Zinc. Eat for Health. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/nutrient-reference-values/nutrients/zinc

[8] National Health and Medical Research Council. (n.d.-j). Zinc. Eat for Health. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/nutrient-reference-values/nutrients/zinc

Coming soon…

I will be doing a review of “Dinnerly” in a few weeks time after I have tried it out a couple of times. So far, after looking at the options, I have not been impressed with the meals as veggies look like an after-thought. But, I will try to keep an open mind. I have tried Marley Spoon and Hello Fresh previously, so it will be interesting to compare them.

If you have any requests for me to trial a product or service that is food related, just send me an email and I will see what I can do.

For help with eating a healthy diet that benefits your mental wellbeing, book in for a consult!

Zinc Rich Meals

SPICY TURKEY PASTA

This is one of my favourite easy to make recipes.

Make sure you use wholemeal pasta if you can find some.

turkey sauce

SPICED LENTIL KOFTAS WITH POMEGRANATE & MINT SALAD

This is a spicy vegetarian, or vegan, dish that has lentils as a good source of zinc. You will find it at the Woolworths site by following the link below. I will do a review of this next time.

lentil koftas and salad

WARM PUMPKIN MEDITTERANEAN SALAD

You can make your own hommus or buy one pre-made to reduce the work of this salad.

It is good as a vegetarian dish, or add some chicken. Use the pumpkin seeds instead of the pine nuts to get a bit more zinc.

meditteranean salad

OATS FOR BREAKY

There are so many ways to have oats for breakfast.

One of my favourites is this Ginger and Fig porridge recipe. I always add some yoghurt to my porridge as well.

Or sprinkle with some hemp seeds. A good zinc-y start to the day.

porridge with fig, yoghurt and nuts

FIRECRACKER SALMON

Salmon adds zinc to your day with canned pink salmon giving more than fresh, surprisingly.

To boost the zinc of the dish add some zinc rich veggies like edamame beans and maybe quinoa or rice.

salmon in frypan

FRUIT, CHEESE & NUT PLATTER WITH SMOKED OYSTERS

You may have noticed that oysters are quite high in zinc. One of the ways I enjoy oysters is with crackers and cheese. Sounds like an enjoyable weekend afternoon snack! Or you could try this Cranberry Seacuturie Board.

seafood platter