Posted on August 02, 2020 by Jenny Cromack

When it comes to nutrition, we are all aware of the effects it may have on us physically. If that’s aiding or hindering performance in the gym, our energy levels throughout the day and so on. But it’s not very often or not at all that we think of nutrition and mental health and the effects nutrition may have on our mental health. To be honest it’s barely spoke about and not known by many.

As a personal trainer, I’m hugely interested in not only understanding how nutrition impacts my clients from a physical point of view, but also the benefits it can have on their mental health and wellbeing. And whilst more research and evidence is needed within this field to provide further information and advice, I am going to share with you some previous results from a recent study completed in 2017 which looked at the effects of food and mood.

1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year. That’s 1 in 4 of your friends, family, co-workers, and in my opinion, that is a really, really big deal.  It’s common to associate mental health with things such as environmental factors, psychological, biological and so on but what isn’t common is associating it with our diet. From the previous blog Brain Foods, we know that the foods and drinks we consume can impact and affect our brain health, it can affect our thought process, our energy, mood and much more and when this is a negative effect this is usually down to lack of nutrients.

Now, you can probably see where I’m going with this so let’s fill in the missing pieces. Previous research has shown that individuals who consume a diet based around processed meats and foods, sweets, high fat, low fruit and vegetables are at an increased risk of depression. On the other hand, individuals who have a more Mediterranean style diet which involves a wide variety, lots of fruits and vegetables, oily fish, wholegrains, low fat and dairy have smaller risks of depression.

The explanation of this still needs more research however it could potentially have links with the nutrients consumed (for example omega-3 is known for it’s association with reduced levels of depression) or the fact a more Mediterranean style diet means higher fibre intake there for it could be down to improved gut health, or is it down to psychological factors?

Regardless, the purpose of this blog is to show that again, nutrition not only helps and improves our health physically but mentally too.  Here are some tips on how to make small changes to help improve your diet.

  • Drink 6-8 cups of water a day. Increasing fluid intake will not only keep you hydrated but can prevent lack of concentration too.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and veggies! This will allow for plenty of nutrients as well as help you reach a 5 a day goal!
  • Include carbohydrates and whole grains. Carbohydrates are our main source of energy so a lack of them can result in a lack of energy.
  • Include fats such as omega-3 and-6. These can be found in oily fish, nuts, eggs and olive oils!
  • Include plenty of protein! Protein not only helps restore and build, it provides us with essential amino acids AND can help you leaving fuller for longer!

Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition and your mental health.