by Tony Gjokaj January 31, 2022 4 min read

These past few weeks, I have been having so much going on in my life that I am figuring out how to manage wisely.

For a time, I quit my full-time job to figure out how to run the active lifestyle brand I’ve been building.

Once I figured that out, I jumped into a job as a personal trainer to fill in the downtime, get paid, and create content that will benefit both my clients and the people in my brand.

I work a lot as a result, but I love helping people on their health & fitness journeys.

However, my nutrition has been getting sloppy.

I’ve been eating like crap, which has impacted my health dramatically in a variety of ways — but I’ve noticed my own mental health and wellbeing get negatively impacted the past couple of weeks.

So in this post, we are going to go over 4 nutrition tips you can use to help with mental health.

Let's dive in!

If you'd like to watch or listen to this post, you can watch the video above!

How Our Diets Impact Our Mental Health

Our diets can impact our mental health in a variety of ways:

  • Poor diets can negatively impact our well-being. Research has shown that a poor diet consisting of a large number of processed foods worsened depression or anxiety.
  • Poor diets can negatively impact our recovery.Recovery is important, but even more important when we exercise frequently. Our body needs nutrients to rebuild.
  • Poor diets can impact our quality of sleep.Sometimes being deficient in certain nutrients like magnesium can impact our sleep.

Introducing more whole foods to our diets (fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, lean proteins, etc) will help with depression and anxiety.

The following are some strategies you can utilize to improve your diet.

I. Eat more lean proteins. 

A general recommendation for those who exercise regularly ~1g per pound of body weight. 

One palm handful of lean proteins like fish and chicken can contain about 20–30g of protein. 

This would mean most of us would have to have 1–2 palm handfuls of protein per meal if we eat about 4–6 meals per day.

II. Eat your fruits and vegetables.

A good general ballpark is 3–5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

1/2 cup of fruits and stalky greens (broccoli or asparagus) is one serving. 
1 cup of leafy greens (spinach or kale) is one serving. 

You may need more or less depending on weight, physical activity level, and more.

III. Get your healthy fats in. 

Western diets are typically high in Omega-6’s (pro-inflammatory fatty acids) compared to Omega-3’s (anti-inflammatory ones).

We consume on average a 15:1 ratio compared to what some of our ancestors used to consume of the past (1:1 or even 4:1).

I recommend consuming fewer omega-6’s and consuming more Omega-3s like fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc.

If you don’t like fish or don’t consume enough of it, consider supplementing with fish oil to get a good amount in.

IV. Try a Mediterranean-Styled Diet. 

For more specifics, you can try a Mediterranean-styled diet.

Mediterranean diets have been considered one of the healthiest diets to model after. In fact, research has shown the diet’s improvements in depression and anxiety.

If you look at these diets, there is a pattern in them:

  • Most of the foods consumed contain Omega-3’s.Foods like fish and olive oil contain healthy fats like EPA which have been shown to help with depression.
  • There are a lot of vegetables and fruits. As mentioned previously, these provide you with the essential micronutrients and fiber you need for your overall health.
  • Vitamin D.This vitamin is something you can get from sun exposure and from fish. While we need more research around Vitamin D and mental health, it has been shown to potentially help those with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a seasonal form of depression that is a result of low Vitamin D levels.

Nutrition Is Simple, Yet Complex

Understand that nutrition is a simple yet complex thing because not only does our environment impact it (climate, culture, etc), but our personal preferences and biology do as well.

And while nutrients can affect our mood and well-being, so can the foods we consume.

For example, some of us may find it easy to eat certain fruits, while some of us may find that certain fruits cause us discomfort. 
I have a friend who cannot eat strawberries because it gives them hives, so they choose to eat other fruits like apples and bananas.

What matters is that you try to get an adequate diet of healthy fats, micronutrients, fiber, and lean proteins in.

Then you assess what foods help you, what style of diet helps you, and more.

And if you need help in finding the best diet for you, I would consult with a dietician.

I can give you general recommendations based on personal experiences and my Precision Nutrition certification, but dieticians will give you the best advice for your own self.

I hope you found value in this post and our video.

If you need extra tips on your mental health journey, you can sign up for our Fitness for Mental Health email list. We’ve got a few freebies in it to help you on your fitness journey. You can sign up here!

Until next time!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.

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