Welcome to Day #4!
*For those who are new here, please note that you can click here and check the previous days. Also, this challenge is not a strict diet plan but a series of mini-challenges to establish healthy Mediterranean diet habits. I do include links and suggestions for recipes, if you want a menu plan you can go here for a 5-day mix and match plan. For a longer comprehensive 14-day plan along with 100 recipes you can consider my new book.
Food and Mood
One of the most fascinating findings of recent years regarding the Mediterranean diet is the effect it has on mood. Evidence has shown that there is a very strong link between food and mood. In the past few years we have seen several studies showing that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce symptoms of depression. And if you are following a Mediterranean style diet, you are less likely to develop depressive symptoms in the first place.
There are certain nutrients that are associated with better mood including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, and probiotics. We also know that processed foods and junk food is associated with negative moods.
Research shows that eating foods rich in these nutrients play an important role in your mood and how we react to stress. And I think we can all agree that we need all the tools we can get to keep our stress under control!
With that in mind, I consciously try and have foods that are rich in these nutrients. The great thing is that these foods are also good for your health anyway!
Here are my suggestions:
Foods That Promote a Good Mood
Lentils are great source of zinc which appears to be involved in our response to stress. It has been found that individuals with depression have low levels of zinc in their blood. I eat lentils at least twice a week and they are a very popular bean in the Mediterranean kitchen even though they are a bit overlooked in the media. They are also easy to prepare as they don’t require soaking.
Of all the nuts, walnuts are right on top! Not only are they a great source protein and antioxidants, they are a source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to affect dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that play a role in mood.
- Walnuts are great just on their own, grab a handful as a quick snack.
- Sprinkle them on a salad.
- Add them to sauteed vegetables like in this recipe for sauteed zucchini.
- Add them in dips:
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids. Traditionally in the Mediterranean diet small fatty fish usually sardines and anchovies are consumed. Although you may think they consume it fresh, this is not always the case; in mountainous areas fish in the winter months was consumed mostly cured or marinated, as they did not have access to fresh fish and therefore consumed fish that was preserved in some way. Preserved fish are consumed in small amounts, while fresh fish liberally. So, if you are not able to find small fresh fish, you can use canned in small amounts as they can be high in sodium. On that note, I do see salmon in many menus, and I have included a recipe in my cookbook. Traditionally there is no salmon in the Mediterranean diet, because simply put, you cannot find salmon in Mediterranean waters. Having said that, it is Ok to have salmon if that is what is available to you and sustainable.
- Mediterranean Garlic and Herb Crusted Roasted Sardines
- Greek Style Bruschetta with Sardines, Raisins and Pine Nuts
The humble egg is such a nutritional powerhouse. The egg white provides protein, the egg yolk is a source of vitamin D and B12. Most people get less than the recommended amount of vitamin D which has been associated with prevention of depression. B12, is a vitamin that can affect mood as well as brain function.
- Keep boiled eggs in the fridge
- Scrambled eggs with vegetables (like I mentioned in Day#2)