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by Tony Gjokaj October 14, 2021 5 min read
When I first started my fitness journey, I was an overweight and depressed kid. My regular meal was a Big Mac with a Milkshake from McDonalds.
I can remember on several occasions how I used food for emotional comfort.
As exercise was introduced into my life, I decided to make better choices in food. In doing so, I recognized one thing very quickly: how important nutrition was for mental health.
The nutrient quality of food plays a huge part in both our brain and body. In fact, a plethora of research has shown that dietary patterns can contribute to depression.
One study in particular assigned 67 depressed adults to either 7 individual consulting sessions with a dietician or 7 social support group sessions for over 12 weeks. The individual consulting sessions helped the depressed individuals make adjustments to their diet and limit junk food.
At the end of the study, 8% of the social support group saw remission in their depression, 1/3rd of the dietician consulting group experienced remission.
This is why nutrition can potentially be a powerful thing to utilize in our journey towards better mood and wellbeing.
So in this post, we are going to go over 5 ways nutrition can help with depression.
Let's dive in!
Omega-3's are known as essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies do not typically make them. We need to consume them from our diets. These fatty acids have been shown to help with brain development and functioning.
Omega-3's consist of both EPA and DHA fatty acids, and according to research, EPA has the potential to help those with depression. According to one meta-analysis that analyzed double-blind studies, EPA has been shown to improve depressive symptoms when individuals consume over 1000mg of EPA.
We can get Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and tuna, or from nuts like walnuts, and almonds.
The following are recommendations for proper Omega-3 consumption:
Zinc and Magnesium are some of the more common deficiencies in the Western Diet. Deficiencies in both of these nutrients can lead to depressive symptoms.
Zinc is a mineral that helps brain function, our immune system, and more. It has been shown to help improve mood in those that are deficient in zinc.
Zinc has also been utilized to help support optimal levels of testosterone.
You can get zinc from meat, eggs, and legumes.
Magnesium deficiency is very common in developed countries like ours. This is due to the fact that grains don't contain sufficient levels of magnesium.
We typically don't consume enough nuts or leafy vegetables in our Western diets.
Research has shown there is a connection between low magnesium intake and depression. In addition, magnesium has shown that regardless of age and gender, supplementation has shown to improve depressive symptoms.
Magnesium has also been shown to be a modulator for Vitamin D. Magnesium optimizes Vitamin D levels in those who are deficient, and lowers it in those with levels that are too high.
We will talk more about Vitamin D and it's importance in mental health later.
Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for optimal brain health. This is because protein is broken down into amino acids, which produce neurotransmitters that can help with depression and anxiety.
Protein consumption is connected to higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, motivation, and focus. It also helps produce tryptophan, which helps regulate serotonin, another neurotransmitter.
Amino acids are produced from high-protein foods: from foods like eggs, meat, fish, and beans.
There is a connection between Vitamin D, mood, and wellbeing.
While not everyone is deficient in Vitamin D, some of us don't get enough. People who don't get regular sun exposure (lack of Vitamin D) typically encounter depressive symptoms.
In the winter where sunlight is limited, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is quite common. Seasonal Affective Disorder is where a person experiences depression as a result of a lack of sunlight exposure.
SAD usually impacts many during the winter time, with these symptoms going to remission around spring and summer time.
Vitamin D has also been shown to aid in improving immune health. It also reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases, colorectal cancer, and a variety of other challenges one might face in their lives.
It does not hurt to get some sun, especially if it helps you live better.
There is a link between high processed foods and depression. Those who tend to eat processed foods or junk foods regularly are more than 50% likely to develop depressive symptoms compared to those who don't.
People who also eat junk food are less likely to be physically active, eat less nutrient-dense foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, etc), and less healthy fats (nuts, fish, olive oil, etc).
Based on the recommendations we've covered, we wanted to give you one final recommendation: consider a Mediterranean Diet. According to research, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to help decrease symptoms of depression.
While the diet isn't a specific diet per-say, it's more like a set of recommendations you can follow. If you have followed the recommendations from this post, you will have most of it down:
If you follow these recommendations, you should see some improvements to your mood.
To conclude, we want you to always consult with a doctor or physician when making changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or direct message us on Instagram.
Until next time!
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.
by Tony Gjokaj April 25, 2023 3 min read
Exercise can feel like a chore, and even if you know it’s good for your health, the motivation to get moving sometimes just isn’t there.
But it doesn’t have to be a burden - by making exercise meaningful to you, it can become something fun and rewarding!
Here are five ways to make exercise more meaningful!
by Tony Gjokaj October 07, 2022 4 min read
Men, I know what it is like to be overweight and depressed.
Not having the energy to do anything but relax and sleep.
While relaxation and sleep are incredibly important, they can make us feel like we are not making progress in our lives.
And when depression hits, it’s very difficult to push through with exercise and weight loss.
But did you know that even though it takes time and some effort, you don’t need to get obsessively crazy over it?
In fact, with just a few small adjustments, you can lose weight, fight back against depression, and take your life back.
If you're serious about shedding pounds and pushing away those depression demons, here are five tips that can help get you started.
by Tony Gjokaj September 05, 2022 4 min read
A few weeks ago, my buddy Grant and I talked about nutrition.
We talked about how he's lost over 120 pounds so far with the weight loss progress he's been making.
This is all because he has been making healthier decisions over time.
One of the newest challenges he's facing right now is he's got a new job. He's working 10 to 12 hour days with physical demanding labor.
And what's been happening for him is that he's been super exhausted, he's not motivated to meal prep, he's having trouble trying to sit down and cook foods doesn't have the energy doesn't have the time.
So what I propose is five tips that you can use to live a more on the go fast food healthy eating lifestyle.
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