Can the Mediterranean Diet work like medicine? Can food be even BETTER than medicine? Studies have consistently shown that the Mediterranean Diet, heavy in fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds has great benefits for health and weight loss, but what you may not realize is that this way of eating also shows great promise for the reduction of depression, cognitive impairment and dementia.
To be healthy, our brains need their proper food, much of which is found in fish oils, and the oils found in nuts and seeds. In addition, replacing empty calories such as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup with nutrient-rich green vegetables and fruits can lift mood, increase energy, and reduce illness.
Two important studies, both conducted in Australia in 2017 have shown in detail how strong the results can be. The SMILES trial compared two groups with moderate to severe depression, one group received a seminar about the Mediterranean diet, weekly cooking lessons and food hampers with healthy food. The other group received “social support” in an effort to build up contacts and social connections. At the end of the 12-week trial, and after three months and six months, the Mediterranean diet group showed a significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms, and an improved healthy diet overall.
The other study, called HELFIMED, also looked at the Mediterranean diet and, using a similar methodology, got similar results: “higher Mediterranean diet scores were significantly associated with lower depression, anxiety, negative affect and better coping and overall quality of life.” For more detail on these studies, see the article on our Gateway Psychiatric website.
Interestingly the researchers in the HELFIMED study made available on the web for free their materials, called “the Antidepressant Cookbook” which gives fun and tasty recipes for healthy foods that have been shown by research to be helpful in reducing depression if used regularly. The cookbook is not hard to use, though written for Australian kitchens, and sometimes offers measurements such as “a packet of…” or “a jar of…” without indicating the size of the unit. Still, if you are a moderately experienced cook, this Antidepressant Cookbook will spark off lots of ideas.
If you’re not such an experienced, cook, you might like one of these books available from Amazon: