Mediterranean diet linked to better mental health

Mediterranean diet linked to better mental health

By Margaret Rogers

Mental Healthy has reported on the benefits to our health and wellbeing through healthy eating.  For many years a Mediterranean-style diet has been associated with better health and a decrease in the risk of illness.  There is a much lower mortality rate and less chronic illness in Mediterranean countries.   A new study has found further evidence that it can help with mental health.

The study was conducted by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Navarra.  The researchers conducted a four year study of 11,000 students to analyse the influence that a Mediterranean diet has on their quality of life.

A Mediterranean diet typically includes the consumption of foods such as:

  • Beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils
  • Fish
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts

The lead author of the study, Patricia Henriquez Sanchez, said ‘The progressive aging of the population in developed countries makes it even more interesting to find out those factors that can increase quality of life and the health of the population.’

At the start of the study dietary intake data was taken.  After four years self-perceived quality of life was measured.  For the purposes of the study the consumption of vegetables, pulses, fruit, nuts, cereals and fish were given a positive value and the consumption of dairy products, meat and alcohol were given a negative value.

It was found that those who adhere to a Mediterranean diet have a higher quality of life in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, although this link is higher terms of physical quality of life.

‘The Mediterranean diet is an important factor associated with better quality of life and can be considered as a healthy food model,’ said Henriquez.

The Mediterranean ‘food pyramid’ is a combination of foods which should be eaten daily, weekly and sometimes.  The recommendation is that:

  • Main meals should always include three basic ingredients – cereals, vegetables and fruit
  • 1.5 – 2 litres of water should be consumed daily
  • The main source of fat should be olive oil because of its nutritional quality
  • Moderate consumption of wine and other fermented alcoholic drinks

The study notes that fish, lean meat and eggs are all sources of high quality animal protein and that fish and seafood are good sources of healthy fats.  It recommends that sugar, sweets, cakes, pastries and sweetened beverages should only be consumed occasionally and only in small amounts. 

The study findings are published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

By our book Eating for good mental health

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