The evidence is growing that there's a link between diet and mental health, indicating that food choices could be a factor in anxiety, depression, and other issues.
A 2017 study, published in BMC Medicine, demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet yields lower depression ratings and other research has shown links between gut health and mental health. We have all heard the expression 'you are what you eat', but what should we be consuming for the benefit of our mental health?
Holistic psychologist Nicole Lippman-Barile, Ph.D. tells MindBodyGreen that a healthy, balanced, mostly plant-based diet is a great start, but that these four food groups should specifically be included for lowered depression.
Leafy greens: They are are high in vitamin B9, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve cognitive function. Leafy greens are also high in vitamin K which promotes strong memory and lowers the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Remarkably, one study published by neurology.org, found that those who ate one to two servings of leafy greens per day had the comparable cognitive ability to someone 11 years younger.
Olive oil: This Mediterranean staple is full of polyphenols which reduces inflammation. Opt for extra-virgin and cold-pressed olive oil for the highest benefits.
Berries: These fruits are packed with phytochemicals which reduce inflammation and enhance neuroplasticity. One study found that children and adults who consumed blueberries saw positive mental health benefits just two hours after consumption.
Seafood: Another common occurance on Mediterranean tables and various studies have found that higher fish consumption is linked to lower levels of depression. Seafood also ranks highly on the Antidepressant Food Score created by doctors Drew Ramsey, M.D., and Laura LaChance, M.D. Why? Fatty fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids as well as trace minerals which facilitate critical enzymatic reactions. And, as OGN published last week, omega-3 fatty acids are directly linked to longer lives.
The so-called gut-brain axis is not fully understood by the scientists, but studies strongly suggest that it's a good idea to make a Mediterranean shift in your diet with these four food recommendations.