girl sour face

While eating breakfast, lunch or dinner have you ever thought about how you’ll feel after your meal?

A recent study found that what you eat could highly influence your mood. The researchers gathered information from more than 10,000 Spaniards, who reported their dietary intake on a questionnaire between 1999 and 2005. They found that those who most closely adhere to their traditional Mediterranean diet have a 30 percent lower risk of developing depression compared with those who don’t follow the diet.

A Mediterranean diet high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, fish and olive oil has long been known to be heart healthy, and now there’s another reason to adopt this diet – you’ll feel better. Fruits, vegetables and legumes were independently protective against depression in the study as they abundantly contain antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the endothelium (the lining of blood vessels). Research has shown that a healthy endothelium is associated with less heart disease and less depression. Olive oil reportedly improves the body’s ability to use serotonin, the brain transmitter that is often low in those with depression. Omega 3-fatty acids found in seafood may improve the function of nerve cells.

All of these benefits from great tasting food lead us back to the produce department, and June is a perfect time to start changing your diet.

•      Fresh raspberries or strawberries and yogurt are an easy, low-fat breakfast option
•      Sliced pears or peaches on whole grain bread with just a spread of almond butter tastes great and will make your taste buds happy
•      An omelet with sautéed zucchini, onions, peppers, basil and a sprinkling of feta will make a hearty breakfast that should give you enough protein to keep you going all morning.
•      How about lunch: A salad of roasted gold and red beets with arugula, green onions, and drizzled with olive oil is delicious and healthy. Or perhaps a bowl of cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado and walnuts might sound more appealing.  A whole grain tortilla with baked sweet potato used as a spread, sliced steamed broccoli, parmesan cheese, and sliced tomato is hearty and scrumptious.
•      Need a little more protein? Try some lean chicken or vegetarian burger chopped and added to a bowl of cucumber slices, crumbled feta, and a bit of chopped red onion.

•      Dinner can be roasted corn added to some cannellini beans and piled on top of some grilled tofu or fish. Or if the weather’s heating up in your area, make your meal around carrot sticks, cucumber slices, low fat hummus or Greek yogurt sprinkled with dill.

•      Have a bowl of fruit salad in the fridge loaded with melons, berries and nectarines and everyone could be happy while sitting together on the porch.

Besides the healthy ingredients, probably the most important part of the Mediterranean diet is about cooking food and sharing it together. Even though you could have any of these things at a local bistro, taking the time to prepare food with each other is what makes this most successful. Invite your partner and/or kids to shop with you. Have fun picking things out. Make one night a week when you eat and enjoy other’s company. Take a cooking class and learn how to cook as a family.

Whatever you do will make a difference and lead to a healthier, happier you.

(June 2010) Fresh Perspectives.