Does the Mediterranean diet really lower the risk of depression?

Can following the Mediterranean diet improve your mental health, and what are the essential components of this way of eating?

Can the Mediterranean diet improve mental health?
(Image credit: Getty)

Can adopting the Mediterranean diet lower the risk of depression? The Mediterranean diet has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and is being frequently recommended by health professionals as a model for healthy eating. There are multiple studies supporting the claims that eating in the same way people do in the Mediterranean region lowers the risks of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and Alzheimer's. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet is fairly easy to adopt and isn't restrictive, which makes it a sustainable long-term nutritional strategy for many people.

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And now it turns out that adopting the Mediterranean diet substantially lowers the risk of depression. The results of a huge recent obsevational study of 1.5 million people across the world has shown 'compelling evidence' that adhering to the Mediterranean diet does lower the risk of depression over time by as much as 24 per cent. Conversely, people who ate the opposite of the Mediterranean diet, i.e. a diet high in processed, fried, and sugary foods, were at a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms. 

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is basically is a diet rich in vegetables, olive oil, healthy carbs, and healthy protein such as fish. It does not exclude any food group, but involves a reduced consumption of red meat (no more than several times a month), a moderate intake of healthy carbs (grains, nuts, and legumes), and plenty of fresh salad. The increased fish intake (at least twice a week) improves Omega-3 levels, which are essential for all kinds of processes, including healthy brain function. 

One of the most important features of the Mediterranean diet is the consumption of olive oil, which has been linked to many health benefits, especially for your heart. If in doubt, simply swap your butter for olive oil whenever possible. 

The Mediterranean diet is also all about fresh ingredients and quick cooking (especially grilling), so it naturally is a diet without much sugar or processed food. 

Mediterranean diet: the easy tips

So, if you want to try the Meditarranean diet, consider taking the following steps:

  • Replace sugary snacks or crisps with fresh nuts;
  • Replace butter with olive oil;
  • Avoid deep fried foods; grill or bake instead;
  • Increase your fish intake to twice a week;
  • Eat more vegetables ;
  • Reduce alcohol intake;
  • Finally, invest in a good Mediterranean cookbook.
  • Another way to improve your mental health is to sleep better. Find our how to sleep well in our guide. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.