Fans of the Mediterranean diet—which consists primarily of seafood, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and a moderate intake of red meat and wine—are already aware of its well-documented health benefits. Research has shown that it leads to a longer lifespan, boosts your heart health, keeps your mind sharp, helps you sleep, fights cancer and other diseases, and even increases your fertility and enhances your sex life. Now, a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychology claims it can also help lower your risk of depression.
Researchers from Britain, Spain and Australia examined 41 studies on the link between diets and depression and found that those who adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a 33 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with depression than those who didn’t.
We often only think of the way our diet affects our physical appearance, but the reality is that what we eat can seriously affect our emotional well-being.
“There is compelling evidence to show that there is a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health,” Camille Lassale, a research associate at University College London’s department of epidemiology and public health and lead author of the study, told CNN. “This relationship goes beyond the effect of diet on your body size or other aspects of health that can in turn affect your mood.”
Eating junk food may feel comforting in the moment, but in the longterm, it actually increases your risk of depression by causing an inflammation of not only the gut but the entire body. The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.
“A pro-inflammatory diet can induce systemic inflammation, and this can directly increase the risk for depression,” Lassale told The Guardian. “Chronic inflammation can affect mental health by transporting pro-inflammatory molecules into the brain, it can also affect the molecules—neurotransmitters—responsible for mood regulation.”
Researchers not involved in the study cautioned that we should take these findings with a grain of salt, given that there are a variety of factors that influence your mood. Still, the research is both promising and timely, since the happiness index of Americans is currently at a historic low.
And for some more science-backed advice on leading a more joyful life, check out the time I Took Yale’s Happiness Course—and Here’s Everything I Learned.
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