As 2021 arrives, hope swoons for a brighter future than 2020 and many are looking for ways to not only lose pounds in the new year but also improve their mental health. There is research showing that the Mediterranean diet may have benefits for both. To improve mental health we often recommend therapy or even medications. However, Self-care is an undervalued and underutilized tool in our busy culture. This can include: Diet, Sleep, Exercise, quiet-time or Meditation. I want to go in more detail about the diet portion.
Why the Mediterranean Diet?
Studies have shown a reduction in depression symptoms in those who have followed a Mediterranean diet. A study of 3,502 older adults in a biracial community showed decreased risk of developing depression over an average of 7.2 years in the group of participants who stuck to the Mediterranean diet (Skarupski et al.). Another study of over 10,000 spanish young adults showed reduced use of antidepressant medication and diagnosis of clinical depression for those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet (Sánchez-villegas et al). The Mediterranean diet also carries numerous health benefits not only weight loss but also improved cardiovascular health with reduction in blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and abdominal circumference (Ventriglio et al.)
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
A general rule of thumb to follow: the Mediterranean Diet is high on non-starchy vegetables, whole grains (unrefined), Fish, poultry (chicken, turkey); Moderate intake of Legumes, Dairy, Eggs, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Nuts, seeds and low to none of red meat (lean cuts if you do partake such as sirloin or flank steaks) and Red Wine (Pinot Noir contains the most of the antioxidant Resveratrol). Finally, you should generally avoid processed meats and sodas.
Finally, you should always consult with your practitioner or dietitian about what diet might be best for you.
Nicole Wurstle PA-C,CAQ-Psychiatry
Sánchez-villegas A, Delgado-Rodríguez M, Alonso A, Schlatter J, Lahortiga F, et al. Association of the mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: The seguimiento universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(10):1090–1098.
Skarupski, K A, C C Tangney, H. Li, D A Evans, and M C Morris. "Mediterranean Diet and Depressive Symptoms among Older Adults over Time." The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013. Web. 01 Feb. 2021.
Ventriglio, Antonio, Federica Sancassiani, Maria Paola Contu, Mariateresa Latorre, Melanie Di Slavatore, Michele Fornaro, and Dinesh Bhugra. "Mediterranean Diet and Its Benefits on Health and Mental Health: A Literature Review." Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH. Bentham Open, 30 July 2020. Web. 01 Feb. 2021.