Unless you’ve been living a rock for most of your life, you’ll know that a healthy diet is advised by everyone from doctors to celebrities. While it’s no secret that fruits, vegetables, and food that hasn’t been deep-fried will all work wonders for your physical health – have you ever wondered about your mental health? In recent years, researchers have been keen to understand any potential links between mental health and the food that we eat. In one particular study, they noted that the Mediterranean diet can help those who suffer with anxiety and depression.
The Mediterranean diet
If you’re not familiar with the Mediterranean diet by name, you will most definitely be familiar with the food eaten within this diet. Inspired by those who live in Spain, Italy, France, and the rest of the Mediterranean, this diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, fish, lean meats, and whole grains. Those on this diet also avoid high sugar products and meats that have been processed. This diet has proved to be incredibly efficient in terms of losing weight and feeling healthier physically, but experts have since released a study that links it to mental health.
The study in question was first published in the PLOS One journal, and featured over 100 participants; college students who were suffering with symptoms of depression and ate rather unhealthily. Within this study, they wanted to test whether a change in diet – specifically to the Mediterranean diet – would help to alleviate their symptoms. To do this, they split the participants into two groups and kept one as a control group. For the other group, researchers asked them to follow a Mediterranean meal plan and eat more of the food items allowed within this diet. Three weeks later, they asked for the participants to rate their symptoms of depression again.
Amazingly, the researchers found that those who had followed the Mediterranean diet had seen improvements within their mental health and their symptoms. Those who were struggling with “severe” symptoms before the study reported that they went down to “moderate” after three weeks, and they found that those who stuck to the plan as closely as possible found more improvement than those who strayed from the plan slightly. This was an incredible discovery, and one that seemed to show a link between the Mediterranean diet and mental health struggles. The study seems to suggest that eating more whole foods and fresh produce could alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, it’s important to remember that this was only a small portion of people, and they were all of a certain age. Whether the same effects occur with those of a younger or older age was not tested.
While it’s important to remember that a healthy diet cannot be considered a cure for mental health struggles, many studies have found that eating a healthier diet and ditching unhealthy and processed foods could have its advantages. After all, when people feel healthier in themselves physically, they often feel healthy mentally as well.