Mediterranean staples are the ultimate good mood food, according to a new study.
A tasty lunch can put an instant smile on your face. But did you know that the right bites can stave off depression and anxiety, too?
New research from the University of Southern Australia suggests that patients with depression who ate a Mediterranean diet—full of vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and fish—were happier and reported a better quality of life compared to those who ate more processed foods.
“Emerging evidence now suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet may be beneficial for improving depression and mental health,” said the study’s lead researcher, Natalie Parletta. These foods are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which research suggests is needed by the brain to maintain mental health and stability.
Another Israeli study found that chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are rich in tryptophan—the amino acid that help our brains produce serotonin. Serotonin is directly responsible for your mood, and low levels of serotonin have been linked to anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression. So aside from that pleasant post-turkey Thanksgiving feeling, a Mediterranean diet rich in tryptophan may help you feel better all year round.
Translation: Fueling your body with wholesome ingredients not only keeps your energy up—it might also combat the ravages of stress. (Taking a real lunch break vs. dining al desko is sounding better and better.) So before you head into an important meeting or make a big presentation, make sure your body is properly prepped for the challenge.
Additional research suggests that a Mediterranean diet might help bust stress for the general population, too. A study from Spain found that people who consumed a Mediterranean diet were 50 percent less likely to develop anxiety or depression. The study specifically called out fruits, nuts, beans, and olive oil as the biggest mood boosters—ingredients that are abundant on the Nanoosh menu. For example, a Powerfood Plate with our dry fruit-and-nut studded quinoa, falafel and citrus and oil dressing pretty much checks all the healthy boxes.
Experts say you don’t have to follow an overly strict or punishing plan to reap the benefits. (So you can have your rice pudding, too.) Just a few meals a week with Med-heavy ingredients might be enough to dramatically reduce your risk of depression and anxiety.
Want more healthy eating ideas? Try these 5 wholesome homemade snacks.