When it’s wintery, wet, cloudy, cold and gray, we are more prone to suffer from the Winter blues (also called seasonal depression or SAD). Of course, one way to improve your mood is get some sunshine and a trip to Greece would certainly do the trick here…BUT another way is to take a look at what you’re eating and consider incorporating some of the Mediterranean eating ways. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that participants who followed a Mediterranean-style diet were 30% less likely to become depressed. So try these great tips:
1. Use olive oil every day – its rich nutty flavor enhances so many foods, from salads to fish, to being drizzled over steamed veggies or rice. Pick extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil to get the most tasty oil and best health benefits.
2. Eat plenty of veggies and fruits – fresh is the key here and local and in-season if possible. Think of the color of the rainbow and make sure to include as many colors as you can on your plate, in order to get the diversity of beneficial nutrients.
3. Eat fish a few times a week – also fresh if possible and not farmed (all the artificial colors and/or antibiotics). One exception to fresh fish is canned sardines, mackerel or pilchards.
4. Snack on nuts or use small amounts in your recipes – try pine nuts in a pesto sauce and keep soaked (and dehydrated) almonds, pumpkin seeds or walnuts on hand as a snack.
5. Eat whole grains – eat grains based on what you can tolerate. The Mediterranean diet includes pasta and bread, but if wheat is an issue for you (and it is for many with mood issues), you can enjoy brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa.
Low intake of meat (or not)?
I must add that the authors of the study did mention a low intake of meat. I spent a summer in Greece in my 20s and remember enjoying some wonderful grilled lamb chops! Also, meat is an excellent source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters, which are so important for good mood. There is a proviso here: quality is so important, so select meat that is preferably grass-fed and free from hormones and antibiotics.
Plenty of other health benefits too
And an added bonus is that the Mediterranean diet has been shown to be beneficial for a whole host of other health conditions – high blood pressure, heart disease, bone loss, colon cancer – as well as promoting a longer life! So eat real whole food in the style of the Mediterranean cultures to be your healthiest AND improve your mood.