Depression is no laughing matter. 350 million people suffer from depression each year. What if there were a way to combat depression without the use of harsh antidepressants and medical treatments? Many scientists believe that simply changing your diet could help ease your depression and anxiety. The Mediterranean Diet has been consumed for centuries in areas of the world that experience the lowest numbers of depression. Could something as easy as switching your diet help boost your mental health?
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating that has been embraced by the residents of Mediterranean areas for centuries. The diet focuses on many ingredients found in Mediterranean villages and towns and emphasizes an importance on whole foods over processed ones.
Benefits of Mediterranean Diet
Benefits of this diet are great, and many dieters can plan to see some immediate results. Most people go on the Mediterranean Diet to lose weight; yet, they find that there are a large handful of other benefits that aid in weight loss. Dieters can expect to experience a spike in energy as well as a more restful night’s sleep. Long-term benefits include an extended life expectancy and lower blood pressure. Many dieters are also able to stop taking diabetes medication after dieting for under a year.
Mental Health Benefits
This diet has a large range of benefits, but some of the best benefits are the mental ones. In some cases, the Mediterranean Diet has been known to aid in depression, insomnia and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that this diet is better at combating mental illness than traditional western medicine. This diet has been known to:/
Increase brain volume – as the body ages, the volume of the brain can shrink significantly. People with dementia tend to have smaller brain volumes than healthy individuals. In places like Greece, scientists have discovered that brain reduction is practically nonexistent. Further studies have shown that people who switch to a Mediterranean-based retained brain volumes by .5%.
Increase a sense of euphoria – this diet emphasizes on whole foods and reduced alcohol consumption. Limiting alcohol and processed foods has been known to ease the symptoms of depression without the use of antidepressants.
Increase gut bacteria – many of the foods that are emphasized on this diet can keep your gut bacteria balanced. This helps your brain connect with the rest of your body.
Many doctors noticed that it didn’t take major changes for patients to see results. A few small switches were enough to enhance happiness in participants in several studies. Take this with a grain of salt: Participants who followed the Mediterranean Diet more stringently experienced the greatest results.
Components of Mediterranean Diet
Luckily, you don’t need to suffer when you’re on this diet. You can eat plenty of whole and delicious foods. Some of the most popular foods to eat include:
Beans, legumes and cereals – lentils and chickpeas are especially popular on this diet. Many people enjoy ordering plenty of hummus while on the Mediterranean diet.
Vegetables – nearly all vegetables are considered safe to eat on this diet. The diet specifically encourages you to eat plenty of leafy greens like spinach and kale; these veggies provide plenty of vitamins and nutrients, but they also offer a good dose of protein.
Olive oils – olive oil is considered one of the best oils to use on this diet. Olive oil is a light oil that can add texture and flavor to many dishes including salads.
Fish – fish is one of the most important factors of this diet. Fish adds plenty of protein to any meal. It can add bulk to your diet to ensure you don’t find yourself with a case of low blood sugar and can help you to stay on track.
Fruit – when you feel the need to snack on something sweet, reach for some fruit instead of a candy bar. You are allowed to eat plenty of fruit on this diet, so get your vitamins and your natural sugar fix at the same time.
Dairy – whole yogurt is allowed in moderation. Yogurt has plenty of good bacteria that can help your body digest everything else you eat throughout the day. Studies have also recently shown that there is a connection between your brain and your gut; your chances of depression lower the higher the amount of good bacteria you sport in your stomach.
Limited alcohol – you don’t need to give up your daily glass of red wine on the Mediterranean diet. You are free to have up to one glass of red wine per day; sometimes, you are even allowed to splurge and enjoy a few glasses. Red wine has plenty of antioxidants and has been known to prevent heart disease in certain studies.
Why Does the Mediterranean Diet Work?
Scientists have found that the brain needs certain vitamins, nutrients and fatty amino acids in order to send the proper happy signals to the rest of your body. These can be found in many of the ingredients in this diet.
Some dieters have wondered if just adding olive oil and yogurt to their diet could help. Scientists say that there are small chances that these ingredients could help your mental health on their own; yet, the happiest dieters were the ones who added more components of the Mediterranean Diet that dieters added to their food pyramid daily.
Is the Mediterranean Diet Better than Pharmaceuticals?
This diet has been known to be just as effective as western medicines in the fight against depression and mental illness. Luckily, the diet also boasts fewer side effects than traditional medicines. Many patients on traditional pharmaceuticals experience side effects that include insomnia, impotence, numb feelings, weight gain, fatigue, nausea and constipation.
Luckily, the Mediterranean Diet does not have any side effects. In fact, many dieters often admit that they lose weight, sleep soundly throughout the night, have higher sex drives and experience less constipation.
Check with your doctor to see if the Mediterranean Diet could help ease some of your depression without the use of antidepressants.