Go Mediterranean for mental health
Nutrition expert Sarah Dash explains how the Mediterranean diet can boost mental health by reducing inflammation.
The principles of the Mediterranean diet are based on common healthy concepts; eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, fish and occasional meats and avoid processed, sugary foods and beverages.
The diet is high in fibre and antioxidants, and has been shown to reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines in the blood, which can compromise gut function, damage tissue and disrupt important signalling pathways. This causes chronic inflammation, which has been linked to commonly occurring mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Happily though, what we eat can help to reduce it.
The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is the consumption of plant-based whole foods. The diet is packed with healthy fats, which help to make this dietary pattern both enjoyable and healthy. Here are a few ways you can incorporate Mediterranean-style meals into your life.
- Sourdough toast topped with avocado, tomato and feta, drizzled with olive oil
- Bowl of Greek-style yogurt topped with seasonal fruit, oats or low-sugar muesli
- Omelette – eggs with veggies and olives
- Mediterranean chickpea salad – chop cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion and olives and toss together. Add chickpeas, and top with crumbled feta. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice.
- Salad sandwich on wholegrain or sourdough bread – fill with sliced cheese and an array of veggies such as spinach, shredded carrot, beetroot, sliced tomato, or avocado. Add an egg or small can of tuna for extra protein.
- Grilled salmon, brown rice and veggies
- Tomatoes stuffed with cous cous and goats cheese
- Roast lamb with mint tzatziki
- Sweet potato with salmon fish cakes
If you’re still hungry, try Mediterranean-style snacks such as a handful of nuts (avoid flavoured or salted options), Medjool dates, fresh fruit or vegetable sticks with houmous.