There are a handful of compelling reasons why you should learn about the nutritional importance of zinc. Firstly, if you're deficient in this essential mineral, it leads to all sorts of physical and mental problems. Secondly, the benefits of having optimum levels of zinc (and all micronutrients!) makes a world of difference, in supporting the balance of body and your mind.
Why is zinc so important for our mental health?
Every major metabolic pathway in our body is dependent on essential micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals we get from food. The key to good nutrition, health and abundant energy is ensuring you have enough of these micronutrients for optimal functioning of your enzymes.
Zinc is a vital mineral involved in over 200 enzymatic reactions within our bodies, which means it impacts how you think and feel every day.
When it comes to your mood, zinc is a key player in making your neurotransmitters, otherwise known as your happy hormones – serotonin and dopamine.
Dopamine is our reward chemical, otherwise known as the ‘motivation molecule’ that boosts our drive, focus and concentration.
Zinc maintains healthy nervous system function, especially looking after the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the body, through which messages of ‘calm’ are transported. A healthy nervous system connection can support the easing of anxiety.
We now know that mental health disorders are linked to inflammation in the body and in the brain. Inflammation is really collateral damage from the immune system. Zinc plays a vital role in immune system functioning; if we can ensure that the immune system in functioning well with adequate zinc levels - we can help control inflammation in the body and the brain.
You can see how zinc deficiency is closely associated with our mental wellness.
Studies have suggested a link between zinc deficiency and a number of conditions including autism, schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Disorder, alcoholism, depression, and severe tension.
Why are we zinc deficient?
It is also partly because people are eating less zinc-rich foods such as red meat and seafood, and partly because food-processing methods often remove a lot of the zinc, for example, the intense refinement of grains.
As we learned earlier, we also use nutrients more quickly because the stress of modern living places a nutritional huge demand on our body just to operate.
10 Signs You Are Zinc Deficient
For some there will be no signs of zinc deficiency. However, if you do have any or a combination of the following signs, you may be zinc deficient:
- Suppressed immunity, frequent colds or infections
- White spots on your fingernails
- Acid reflux, indigestion or heartburn
- Depression and anxiety
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Slowed growth in children
- Loss of smell or taste
Testing for zinc deficiency is most effective through a functional taste test. Utilising blood testing for zinc status is unreliable because your body will hold zinc in the blood even if you are chronically deficient.
Here at BePure, we use a functional taste test. Detecting the naturally bitter or unpleasant taste of zinc is dependant on having enough zinc in your body to detect it. For many people, they can take a liquid sample of zinc and it tastes just like water.
There is a scale of zinc deficiency when using the taste test. Some people will taste nothing at all. These people are likely very deficient. Others will taste a slightly unpleasant or “furry” taste after 5 seconds. Others will taste a mildly unpleasant taste relatively quickly but it isn’t strong or overpowering. Lastly, those with good zinc status will taste the astringent and bitter taste straight away.
If you are deficient in zinc, we recommend taking a zinc supplement to support you in getting you zinc stores up to nourish your body.
Which foods are high in zinc?
In addition to supplementation, increasing your dietary intake of zinc is important in maintaining your zinc levels. Once you become zinc deficient it's very difficult to improve your body's zinc levels solely from food, due to a catch-22 situation in which the absorption of zinc relies on having enough zinc.
Some of the most zinc-rich food sources are:
- Red meat
- Kidney beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Avoid alcohol, tea, and coffee as these compete with and can inhibit the absorption of zinc.
Please note, this blog is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure. If you have mental health concerns please do contact the below:
Please see your GP if you have concerns regarding your mood and anxiety.
If your situation is an emergency, or if you or someone is at risk, call 111.
For support, you can contact:
Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 anytime for support from a trained counsellor.
Lifeline 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland