• Andy De Santis, RD MPH

Micronutrients For Mental Health – Which Should You Be Aware Of?

October is Mental Health Awareness Month and I see no better opportunity than now to re-visit the role that diet and nutrition has to play in improving mental health outcomes.


Earlier this year I put together a piece which took a closer look at the role that omega-3 and probiotic supplementation had to play in this regard, with today’s discussion branching out to the other nutrients of interest.


Given that anxiety and depression are the most prevalent mental health conditions and that practitioners like ourselves are very likely to encounter patients/clients living with them, it is increasingly important to be aware of the nutrients of greatest significance in this context.


Let’s take a closer look as to what the best available evidence suggests those may be.


Micronutrients For Mental Health

Zinc – Zinc has become an increasingly prominent micronutrient in the eyes of the general public owing to the attention it has received for its role in modulating immune health.


Case in point, a quick search of the top selling supplements on Amazon.com reveals that two of the top fifteen selling supplements contain Zinc.


Zinc is a nutrient that has the potential to be under consumed at population level and poor zinc status has been associated with a higher risk of depression in a 60+ population.


Aside from conventional sources such as beef, poultry and certain types of seafood (especially clams, oysters), zinc is found in rich supply in tofu, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, lentils, chickpeas, yogurt and oatmeal - to name a few.


Hemp seeds and tofu are of particular interest here because they are also among the few foods to contain omega-3 fatty acids.


Vegans/vegetarians with less than optimal dietary patterns may be at increased risk for inadequate zinc intake, a point of interest concerning vitamin B12 status.



Vitamin D – As one might expect at this time year, Vitamin D3 is the top selling supplement on Amazon.ca.


Quite elusive from the dietary perspective, especially for those who don’t consume fish, there is evidence to suggest that improved vitamin D status in conjunction with more regular physical activity does indeed have the potential to mitigate some symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Vitamins A, C, & E – Antioxidant-rich foods have become targets of interest for mental health researchers looking for dietary means to improve symptoms in depression and anxiety.


A population of individuals living with either anxiety or depression was identified to have lower serum levels of the antioxidant vitamins A, C & E and when the status of these essential nutrients was improved, so to were symptoms.


Vitamin A is found in richest supply in carrots, squash, sweet potato, spinach and kale.


Vitamin E is found in richest supply in sunflower seeds, almonds (and their butters) and avocado.


Vitamin C is found in richest supply in kiwi, bell pepper, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, broccoli, brussels sprouts and tomatoes.


A Note On B12 & Folate

Vitamin B12 and folate, which tend to be discussed more commonly in the contexts of veganism and pregnancy respectively, are worthy of noting because they have also generated interest in the world of mental health research, but the body of evidence around them is admittedly less concrete.


Final Thoughts

Optimal nutrition for mental health is a complex and emerging area of scientific inquiry but my hope is that today’s article will offer you firm ground with which to hold this discussion with your clients.


The Nutrioso platform, of course, can help bring today’s content to life and facilitate strategizing the incorporation of these key nutrients which have been increasingly identified as relevant to those with mental health concerns.

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