We all know we should eat healthy to stay in shape and live longer. But research is suggesting that our diet could actually play a role in our mental state as well.
In fact, studies suggest following the Mediterranean diet, specifically, could go so far as to help relieve symptoms of depression.
There’s already been research stacking up for the Mediterranean diet for other reasons. From memory improvement to heart health, this diet has been gaining quite a following.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Where a Western diet is focused on red meat, saturated fats, and limited produce, the Mediterranean diet is plant-based. It focuses on vegetables and fruits, legumes, and whole grains to make up the bulk of most meals; seafood and poultry take the place of red meat, and any dairy should be minimal and low fat.
The Mediterranean diet also differs in more subtle ways, but these subtleties are no less important. For instance, where Westerners typically use butter and salt for flavor, Mediterranean natives use olive oil, herbs, and spices.
Diet and Brain Health
Additionally, seafood is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be important for brain health. This diet is also rich in fiber and antioxidants, which scientists believe to be linked to lowering inflammation in the body.
Experts think this combination of fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants could aid in preserving proteins found in the brain – these proteins could help in defending against mood disorders.
Another factor to consider is something called the gut-brain axis. More and more research is supporting the idea that our gut and brain are closely connected, both physically and chemically. So much so, that our stomachs are referred to as our “second brain” by some scientists.
You may have heard of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that transmit signals across synapses in the brain. However, neurotransmitters aren’t just produced in the brain. Many neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are also produced by the microbes living in our gut.
Some research suggests that maintaining a healthy gut biome could be a significant factor in mental and brain health.
These findings may even help explain why there’s a disproportionate amount of people grappling with a mood disorder, like anxiety or depression, along with digestive issues.
Mediterranean Diet Grocery List
So how do you get started with a plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet? CookingLight.com has put together a suggested shopping list to help you start on the right foot.
Kale, Swiss chard, arugula
Leeks, onions, shallots, garlic
Radishes, beets, carrots
Canned tuna, salmon, or anchovies
Fresh, wild-caught salmon or mackerel, oysters, mussels
Lean game meats such as quail, duck, and bison
Extra-virgin olive oil
Whole Grain Ideas
Nut and Seed Ideas
Almonds, pine nuts, walnuts
Feta, goat cheese, haloumi, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Olives, avocados, tomatoes,
Figs, apricots, dates
Pears, oranges, grapes, cherries, pomegranates
Chickpeas, cannellini beans, fava beans
Lentils, split peas
Condiments and Spices
Hummus, tapenade, pesto,
Ground cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, Spanish paprika (also called pimentón)
Carroll, Linda. (2017, February 1). Mediterranean Diet Associated with Relief from Depression Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.today.com/health/mediterranean-diet-associated-relief-depression-t107614
Laseter, Elizabeth. (2017, August 30). What is the Mediterranean Diet? Retrieved from http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/what-is-the-Mediterranean-diet
Mayo Clinic Staff. Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801?pg=1