Maybe there’s actually some nutrition basis to the belief that oysters are an aphrodisiac — they’re  the top source of zinc, a mineral which may help reduce hostility and depression, new research suggests. Japanese researchers recruited 30 young women (average age 19 years old) and had half the group increase their zinc intake by 7 mg. After 10 weeks, the women were evaluated by a double-blind psychological test to determine aspects of mood, such as general feeling of well-being, anxiety, sensitivity, anger and tension. The results: The zinc group registered a 10% drop in their depression score — and a whopping 33% drop in their hostility score, compared to the beginning of the study.

Roughly 25% of American women suffer from low zinc levels, and previous research has linked reduced zinc levels with heart disease, increased infection rates, skin cancer and even dyslexia. We recommend whole-food zinc sources. By contrast, from use of supplements, one study found that men who took more than 100 mg of zinc daily had double the risk of prostate cancer.

Top Sources
Men’s Daily Value
Women’s Daily Value
 Oysters 3 oz. 257% 353%
 Alaskan King Crab 3 oz. 59% 81%
 Lobster 3 oz. 56% 77%
 Lentils 1 cup 23% 31%
 White Beans 1 cup 22% 31%
 Clams 3 oz. 21% 29%
 Pumpkin Seeds 1 oz. 19% 26%

Other aspects of nutrition may also affect mood: Previous studies have linked low levels of folate, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D to depression — while a junk food diet was linked to a 58% increased risk of depression, in one analysis. Try aerobic exercise and weight lifting as well: 90% of formerly depressed seniors no longer met the clinical criteria for depression after a 12-week exercise regimen, one study found.

 Published April 1, 2011