Eating a Mediterranean diet has already been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as lengthen your life.
A new study shows that this diet—which emphasizes fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil and nuts—may also improve your mental and physical health.
Spanish researchers asked over 11,000 people about their diets to determine whether they followed the Mediterranean diet. Four years later, researchers measured the participants’ quality of life for both mental and physical well-being.
People who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet reported better mental and physical health. The connection between this type of diet and quality of life was stronger for physical well-being, but most aspects of mental health also benefitted.
The Mediterranean diet, which has its own food pyramid, outlines foods that should be eaten daily, weekly and occasionally. The main aspects of the diet include:
- Main meals should all include fruit and vegetables, cereals, and dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
- The main fat in the diet is olive oil, which is used in place of foods like butter and margarine.
- Fish, poultry and eggs are emphasized as the main animal sources of protein, with red meat limited to a few times a month.
- Baked goods and highly sweetened foods are eaten only sparingly, including sugary beverages. Fresh fruit is typically eaten as a daily dessert.
- Wine is also allowed as part of this diet, usually with meals, with one to two glasses a day for men, and one glass a day for women.
- Regular physical activity is encouraged to maintain a healthy weight and fitness level.