The Mediterranean diet lifestyle can help alleviate symptoms of depression. A study of almost ten-thousand healthy Spanish adults, conducted at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, found that those who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet lifestyle were 30 percent less likely to become depressed than those who did not follow the diet. The researchers found that people who benefited the most followed a lifestyle that included:

  • A high ratio of monounsaturated fats versus saturated fats
  • Moderate use of alcohol and dairy products
  • Low consumption of red meat
  • High intake of legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, vegetables, and fish

Numerous studies have been conducted to test the impact of the Mediterranean diet on overall health, the first of which was the Seven Countries Study, conducted in the 1950s by Dr. Ancel Keys. The study revealed that men on the Isle of Crete had one of the highest comparative life expectancies and surprisingly low instances of heart disease. The Lyon Diet Heart study, a later four-year study, found that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet experience lower instances of cardiac death as well as non-fatal heart attacks. More recently the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Mediterranean diet is an effective method of losing weight. Depression and being overweight or obese have been found to be linked.

The standard American diet contains numerous artificial additives which are not found in the Mediterranean diet. Food colorings like Red 40 Dye have been linked to childhood disorders such as ADHD and schizophrenia, according to studies from the National Institutes of Health. MSG is a neurotoxin found in many of these processed foods, along with high fructose corn syrup, a highly controversial corn-based sweetener which is known to aggravate inflammation and is being cited by many doctors as one of the causes of the global obesity crisis. A study published in Environmental Health in January 2009 found that more than half of the commercial high fructose corn syrup samples contained mercury. Mercury toxicity can cause several negative health effects, including severe fatigue, memory loss, and depression, according to the Northland Environmental Health Clinic in New Zealand.

The primary benefits of the Mediterranean Diet lifestyle are the result of abundant complex carbohydrates, folate, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids:

Complex carbohydrates, found mainly in whole grains, vegetables, nuts and legumes, are known to improve mood, reduce appetite, balance blood sugar levels, and protect against heart disease. Foods containing complex carbs can have a positive effect on depression, cancer, diabetes, and digestive problems. Brown rice and other complex carbohydrates are mood foods, explains Dr. Richard Wurtman, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wurtman has studied the role of carbohydrates for 30 years and has found that they play an important function in regulating the mood-elevating neurotransmitter, serotonin. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and several other psychological ailments.

Folate is a form of B vitamin that boosts your levels of serotonin and reduces your risk of coronary heart disease. It is found in green leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes and cereals. Folate deficiency has been observed in up to 38 percent of depressed people, and has been linked to a poor response to antidepressant medication, according to Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which is necessary for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and the formation of blood. Studies from Kuopio University Hospital in Finland and Medical Research Council (MRC) Neuropsychiatric Research Laboratory in the UK found that high levels of vitamin B12 in the bloodstream were linked to more positive outcomes for people treated for depression. The highest concentrations of B12 are found in fish and shellfish, eggs and cheese.

Omega-3 fatty acids may alleviate symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis, according to researchers at Harvard School of Medicine and the University of Sheffield UK. Omega-3s, found mainly in fish, nuts and some fruits and vegetables, have been shown to boost brain functioning, relieve pain and inflammation, protect your heart, and prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The use of Omega-3 supplements is most effective among patients with major depression who do not have anxiety disorders, according to a study of 432 people conducted at the Université de Montréal.

Adopting the Mediterranean diet lifestyle can have profound effects on depression and overall physical and psychological health. With just a few simple dietary changes, you can live a happier, healthier, and more satisfying life.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the website as part of the Global Peace Project Educational Outreach Program. You can also find him on The Total Health Blog.