The Mediterranean Diet’s salutary effect on heart health, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, bone health and skin are well-known. But few realize that it also positively affects mental health and mood. Stress eating is a recognized phenomenon. People are known to eat more when depressed. A study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, collects the results of 41 studies published since 2010. Although more specific replicable studies need to be conducted to establish a definite correlation, given the number of elements which could be involved, it is generally observed that a healthy body and a healthy mind go hand-in-hand.
As of now research has not firmly identified which exact foods directly affect or treat depression. The common conclusion appears to be that a plant-based Mediterranean-style diet is the key to elevating mood. Lifestyle choices such as diet, smoking, and lack of exercise could affect the severity of depression.
What is Clinical Depression?
Depression is a psychological condition, the most significant symptom of which is a marked loss of interest in activity, resulting in significant impairment of function. Many social, psychological, and biological factors play a role in causing depression. These factors cause changes in the brain including changes in certain neural circuits. Losing sleep, appetite, energy levels, concentration, and self-esteem are some common symptoms of chronic depression.
Treatment in the ordinary course involves either medication or behavioral therapy or a combination of the two. Medical depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Nearly 17.3 million adults in America had at least one major depressive episode in 2017. Females are more likely to suffer from depression than males. In rare cases electroconvulsive therapy is also used. The effect of food on depression may not be direct. However, there is a definite relationship between the foods you eat and your mood.
Observational Studies Link Depressive Moods with Poor Diets
Harvard Health reports observational studies among middle-aged, older and mostly menopausal women and the links between obesity, depression and diet patterns. One study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, suggested that high consumption of meat could be associated with greater risk of depression. A 2014 study in Brain, Behavior and Immunity suggested a positive correlation between depression and a diet rich in sugar-sweetened soft drinks, processed grains and red meat.
Combine a Mediterranean Diet with Exercise to Boost Moods
Eating a nutritious diet such as the Mediterranean Diet has been proven to promote a range of health benefits including prevention of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bone health, weight loss, well-being and vitality. There are also studies showing a link between Mediterranean meal plans and protection from cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Because the Mediterranean Diet emphasizes a stress-free lifestyle, a combination of this food regimen with mild exercise, particularly walking for at least 30 minutes a day can increase release of positive endorphins and lift up moods. When you walk, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from depression are reticent to visit a physician of clinical dietitian and may find online help easy to access. The Mediterranean Nutritionist is full of authentic Mediterranean recipes tailor-made for those suffering from depression. After all, the Mediterranean Diet was voted the healthiest diet in 2018 and 2019 by US News and World Report.
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