People who adopt a Mediterranean style diet have been shown to be 33% less likely to develop depression, suggesting a significant role for diet in mental health. This is according to data from dozens of different studies, which has been analyzed by the University College London. It seems that a heavy plant based diet, with limited quantities of meat and dairy, has the greatest potential for preventing the onset of mood-related conditions. As an added bonus for environmental activists, this diet has been shown to be one of the most sustainable.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a general term to refer to any diet that includes large quantities of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood and olive oil. It also tends to include moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, yogurt and cheese. Although not a vegan diet, the Mediterranean diet cuts out most dairy and meat, especially red meat. It also cuts out refined fats and sugars completely.
The benefits of this diet include physical health, mood levels and even environmental sustainability. It has been linked to weight loss and heart health, while decreased meat consumption means that less energy is needed to produce the food. Users of this diet often take a holistic approach, so it is often combined with meditative practices and environmental activism.
The Relationship Between the Gut and the Brain
Beyond the physical health benefits, it is thought that the Mediterranean diet has a significant effect on mental health. This might be explained by the mysterious connection between the gut and the brain. Higher amounts of harmful bacteria in the gut has been shown to decrease mood levels, while a diversity of beneficial bacteria improves brain development and levels of happiness. The Mediterranean diet fights unwanted gut bacteria and promotes the growth of healthy ones. Perhaps those who choose this diet also feel less guilt because they are selecting food which requires little energy to produce and transport, while also often requiring no packaging.
Inflammation and Depression
Another theory about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for mental health is to do with inflammation. Although far from scientifically proven, there does seem to be a link between high levels of inflammation and depression. The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of anti-inflammatory food items, such as olive oil, nuts and leafy greens, which may explain the decreased risk of depression. Even if you think that your mental health is fine, anti-inflammatories will protect against cancer and heart disease.
For people concerned about maintaining high levels of mental health, consider looking into the Mediterranean diet. The data is undeniable that rates of depression among people who adopt this diet are much less likely to become depressed. Cut out refined sugars and fats and up your intake of fruit, vegetables and seafood for the best results. The added bonus is that you will move towards a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.
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