Zinc and Mental Health!

Zinc, the often forgotten but essential mineral, is involved in MANY important roles in the human body! These include (but are not limited to) regulating our metabolism, immunity, muscle integrity, wound healing, and normal cellular growth! (1)

When it comes to zinc and our mental health, it is not surprising that it plays a key role - seeing as it is the most abundant trace element found in the brain (2)! Zinc is involved in neural functioning as well as in moderating levels of depression, impulsivity, and overall mood (2-4). The benefits of zinc have been well-established through research findings outlining that diets low in zinc are linked to impaired brain function, increased anxiety, and worsened levels of depression (2,4-5).

There are two proposed mechanisms for how zinc influences our mental health, one being through its action on our central nervous system (the system encapsulating our brain and its nerves) (6), and another being its role in promoting normal brain cell development, growth, and functioning (3).

Enriching our diet with zinc is important because our bodies are not efficient at storing this nutrient!

It is generally recommended that a healthy adult consume a minimum of 8-11 mg of zinc daily, with a maximum limit set to 40mg (especially important with the use of supplements) (1)!

Rich dietary sources of zinc and their milligram doses include:

  • Oysters, 3 oz (74mg) - yes - this is 673 % of the daily recommended needs!

  • Beef chuck, 3 oz (7mg)

  • Crab, 3 oz (6.5mg)

  • Pork loin, 3 oz (2.9mg)

  • Baked beans, 1/2 cup (2.9mg)

  • Fortified breakfast cereal, 1 serving (2.8mg)

  • Pumpkin seeds, 1 oz (2.2mg)

  • Yogurt, 8 oz (1.7mg)

  • Cashews, 1 oz (1.6mg)

  • Chickpeas, 1/2 cup (1.3mg)

As you can see, many of the richer sources come from animal-based protein sources, so if you choose to eat plant-based a supplement may be appropriate! But, always talk to your doctor or dietitian to see what is right for you!

As a general rule of thumb, I recommend supplementing with 25mg for 30 days on and 30 days off! Often, the best-tolerated form is “bisglycinate”!

If you have any questions or concerns about your health or zinc levels, feel free to reach out by email

at amber@nourishtoflourishdietetics.com or phone at 250-681-5170!


1National Institutes of Health. (July 15, 2020). Zinc: fact sheet for health professionals. Received from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

2Greenblatt, J. M., To, W., Dimino, J. (2016). Evidence-based research on the role of zinc and magnesium deficiencies in depression. Psychiatric Times, 33(12). Received from: https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/evidence-based-research-role-zinc-and-magnesium-deficiencies-depression

3Petrilli, M. A., Kranz, T. M., Kleinhaus, K., Joe, P., Getz, M., Johnson, P., Chao, M. V., & Malaspina, D. (2017). The Emerging Role for Zinc in Depression and Psychosis. Frontiers in pharmacology, 8, 414. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2017.00414

4Hajianfar, H., Mollaghasemi, N., Tavakoly, R., Campbell, M. S., Mohtashamrad, M., & Arab, A. (2020). The association between dietary zinc intake and health status, including mental health and sleep quality, among iranian female students. Biological Trace Element Research. Received from: https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/s12011-020-02316-3

5Swardfager, W., Herrmann, N., Mazereeuw, G., Goldberger, K., Harimoto, T., & Lanctôt, K. L. (2013). Zinc in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. Biological Psychiatry, 74(12), 872–878. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.008

6Swardfager, W., Herrmann, N., McIntyre, R. S., Mazereeuw, G., Goldberger, K., Cha, D. S., Schwartz, Y., & Lanctôt, K. L. (2013). Potential roles of zinc in the pathophysiology and treatment of major depressive disorder. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(5), 911–929. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.03.018

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