Eating a Mediterranean diet may protect against symptoms of depression in older age, according to new research from Hellenic Open University in Greece.
Researchers looked at data from 154 older adults in Athens, screening the participants for depression and sleep disturbances and assessing their adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet. Roughly 75% of the subjects screened negative for depression symptoms, 21% screened positive for moderate depression and 3% screened positive for severe depression. Also, approximately 30% were found to have sleep problems and about 64% adhered moderately to a Mediterranean diet.
A link was found between depression diagnosed by a physician and not sticking to a Mediterranean style of eating. Most noteworthy, depression was 20% less common in those eating more vegetables, 36% less common in those eating less poultry, and 28% less likely in people drinking less alcohol.
“Although we should be cautious about the study findings, they represent another potential reason to adopt a Mediterranean diet,” says study author Konstantinos Argyropoulos, MD, PhD. Following a healthy lifestyle, which includes not only a Mediterranean-style diet, but also plenty of physical activity and drinking alcohol only in moderation, is linked to a reduction in depression.”
What to eat
Here are the key components of a Mediterranean diet.
- Vegetables—and lots of them. Spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, eggplant, asparagus and peppers are just a few.
- Fruits—berries, melons, grapes, dates, bananas, figs, oranges and pears.
- Whole grains— amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, sorghum, teff and wild rice.
- Legumes—beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and peanuts.
- Nuts and seeds—almonds, pistachios, walnuts, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
- Fish—salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, oysters, shrimp and crab.
- Poultry—chicken, turkey and duck.
- Eggs—chicken, duck and quail eggs.
- Fats—olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil and grapeseed oil.
- Dairy—yogurt and cheese.
Red meats and sweets are limited. Beverages include water and a glass of red wine each day.
Convinced that the Mediterranean diet is the way to go? Great. But how do you get started? It’s never easy to completely overhaul your diet overnight. Habits can die hard, and making any kind of dietary changes takes time and adjustments. Ease into your new eating plan with the following tips.
- Choose olive oil over butter or margarine for sautéing your foods.
- Mix up your own salad dressing using olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Aim to eat fish twice a week. Add some tuna to your lunchtime salad, and broil salmon for one of your dinner meals.
- Include a few pieces of fresh fruit at your meals or as snacks. Worried about the carbs? Berries, cherries, apples, and pears have lower glycemic index ratings than other types of fruit.
- Make a point to include at least two different vegetables at dinner.
- Try a meatless meal at least once a week. How about black beans and brown rice? Or a tomato, cucumber and white bean salad served with a side of couscous?
- Enjoy a healthy snack of plain Greek-style yogurt with a small handful of nuts.