We already know eating a Mediterranean diet (a.k.a. tons of fruits and veggies, fish, chicken, whole-wheat pasta, and the occasional glass of red wine) comes with a bunch of health benefits. A recent study takes those findings one step further, suggesting that following the way people live in countries like France, Spain, Italy, and Greece can lower your risk of developing depression.
The so-called Mediterranean lifestyle involves three components: following the well-known diet, plus high levels of socializing and exercising. Researchers followed nearly 12,000 university graduates in Spain for more than eight years. Participants whose day-to-day habits closely mirrored the lifestyle were half as likely to be at risk for depression as the people who didn’t follow the behaviors closely.
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To be fair, the findings raise a chicken-or-egg question. People who struggle with depression often feel anxious, fatigued, or isolated. That means they may be less social and less active, two key parts of the Mediterranean lifestyle.
That being said, those of us who are susceptible to depression can make a few key changes in our lives and see if they have an impact. We can prioritize seeing friends and family while also making time to be physically active (or at least not sedentary). When it comes to food, pile on the fruits and veggies, nuts, and legumes. Plus, try to steer clear of processed foods—easier said than done since they already make up so much of the typical American diet.