A new study coming from the Food & Mood Centre, Deakin University, in Australia showed a relationship between depressive symptoms and diet. The researchers put a group of people with major depressive disorders on a Mediterranean style diet for 12 weeks and compared them with another group who also had depressive disorders who only received social support. After 12 weeks about 30% of the Mediterranean diet intervention group reported improved depressive symptoms, whereas only 8% of the social support group reported improvement. It is important to note that these results were independent of weight loss as well as physical activity, smoking and education.
But the diet may not only effective for individuals with an actual diagnosis of depression but for everybody else as well, previous studies have shown a link between a Mediterranean diet pattern and depression prevention, with people who had a high adherence to the diet at an astounding 98% less risk of developing depressive symptoms. This new study though is not an observational study but an actual intervention.
The authors note that a dietary intervention for those with depression is meant to support traditional treatments such as psychotherapy and medications not to replace them. However, the Mediterranean diet in any case is a highly researched diet that has proven benefits for ones health.
The diet recommended is in line for the most part with a traditional Mediterranean diet. However, they do recommend a bit of a higher red meat intake than the traditional Mediterranean diet has. The same university has noted a previous study that they have published, that has shown that moderate red meat consumption may play a positive role in mood, however there are several studies that show that red and processed meat has the opposite effect in mood, not to mention its negative effect on health. Finally, it is important to note that the traditional Mediterranean included small amounts of red meat and usually once a week, not what is noted in this study.
With that in mind here is what you need to eat to gain the most benefits of the Mediterranean diet both physically and emotionally:
✚ 3 tablespoons olive oil a day
I’ve mentioned before that olive oil is a key element in the Mediterranean diet, and you need to consume minimally at least 2 tablespoons a day, ideally 3. This works out well, if you make the numerous vegetable dishes that are the hallmark of the Greek diet and are cooked in olive oil and tomato (lathera) and of course by using it as your main source of fat.
✚ 6 servings of vegetables a day
Remember an older post where I mention that Greeks have the highest consumption of vegetables in the world? They consume about a pound a day. How is this done: With those vegetable main courses I mention above, plus salads at every meal. Check this post out for my tips on how to increase your vegetable intake
✚ 3-4 servings of legumes/beans a week
You can eat these as a main course and get your servings in two days rather than smaller servings. Here in Greece we eat them as a main course with a bit of feta and some bread. For recipes click here.
✚ 2 servings of fish a week
Fatty fish is the choice, think sardines, anchovies and sometimes salmon.
✚ 1-2 servings of chicken a week
Chicken is so versatile. Prepare it the Greek way and make it healthier by cooking it in tomato or with oregano and lemon.
✚ 4 servings of eggs a week
Loving eggs. Use olive to make omelets or fried eggs.
✚ 2 servings of dairy a day
In the Greek diet most of the dairy is in the form of cheese and of course yogurt.
✚ 5-8 servings of whole grains a day
Potatoes are important part of the diet. Bread is consumed mainly by accompanying the vegetable main course. Choose 100% whole grain and try the Cretan whole grain barley rusks.
✚ A handful of nuts a day
Any nut will do, but walnuts are probably your best bet, they are also a source of the hard to find omega-3 fatty acids.
✚ 3 servings of fruit a day
We eat fruit as part of the meal. A platter of some cut fruit in the middle of the table family style encourages everyone to eat.
Photo by Elena Paravantes© All Rights Reserved
Thank you! I believe I’ve seen sheep’s milk yogurt in my grocery store so I can at least try it. I’d go back to Crete in a heartbeat should we be able to travel again. Breakfast under the bougainvillea’s with various cats lazing….great coffee, great yogurt with fruit, eggs….well….you know 🙂
I have a question please. When I was in Crete for several weeks every morning I had the most delicious yogurt I’ve ever eaten. I’m not a huge yogurt fan but I loved this. I’ve tried all kinds of yogurts in the states and have been unable to find anything like what I had in Crete. Can you tell me what the difference is and do you know of anything in the states that would be similar? Thank you.
Hi Linda! Most likely you had traditional sheep’s milk yogurt. I’ve written about it here: https://www.olivetomato.com/this-is-the-real-greek-yogurt/
I love mediterranean food. Mostly I eat salads (greek). Feta, olives, olive oil greek dressing – all my favs.
I really appreciate this post! I suffer from drops in mood quite frequently, so I will definitely try to implement these strategies.
I was also wondering – hope you don’t mind me asking – what is your opinion on low carb/ketogenic diets?
Love your blog!