This Diet Is Scientifically Proven to Boost Your Mood
Most diets can help you look great in a bathing suit. But what about an eating plan to make you a happier person?
The answer could be the Mediterranean Diet, according to a recent study published in BMC Medicine. Researchers monitored a group of people with depression for 12 weeks as they followed the diet, and the majority reported a big improvement of their symptoms. So the proof is in the pudding (or, um, the hummus).
You’ve probably heard of this diet before, but there’s no better time to try it. It’s comprised of foods that are popular in Greece, Israel and other areas of the Middle East, with a focus on whole grains, veggies, beans, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish, lean red meat, chicken and olive oil (aka the best stuff ever invented).
Ready to give the Mediterranean Diet a whirl? We asked top R.D.s and nutritionists to share their picks for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
Breakfast: Greek Yogurt with Berries and Walnuts
There’s zero excuse to skip breakfast—this takes literally 30 seconds to make. “Fruit is highly emphasized in this diet, and berries are high in vitamin C, filled with antioxidants and a good source of fiber,” explains Alexandra Miller, RDN, Medifast corporate dietitian. “Greek yogurt is a great source of protein that also provides probiotics to support a healthy gut microbiome.” Nuts and seeds are high in vitamins E and B6 and magnesium and fiber. They also supply a dose of healthy fat, which may help protect against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Yep—all those benefits, and it’s not even noon yet.
Breakfast: Whole Grain Toast with Avocado, Tomato and an Egg
When you have a little more time on your hands (think Saturday morning), whip up this guy. “Eating whole grains supplies your body with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other disease-fighting nutrients,” Miller says. “A diet rich in whole grains may also help lower your risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” Eggs are also a big Mediterranean diet favorite because they’re an excellent source of protein; vitamins A, D and E; and minerals. Avocado is packed with heart-healthy fat and fiber, so you’ll definitely stay full until lunch.
Lunch: Mediterranean Tuna and Chickpea Salad
This meal is the ultimate trifecta: healthy, tasting and filling. Start with canned tuna that’s packed in water, then add low-sodium canned chickpeas and red onion, tomato, cucumber and lettuce. Top with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil and red-wine vinegar. “Tuna is rich in protein and lower in fat and calories than many other protein sources,” Miller says. “It’s also an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which science has shown to improve heart health and brain function.” By pairing vitamin-rich leafy greens with olive oil, the anti-inflammatory vitamins E and K can be properly absorbed, as these vitamins require fat for absorption.
Lunch: Hummus and Veggie Wrap with an Apple
Plant-based is the name of the game, so plan at least a few meatless lunches per week on this diet. Veggies are rich in fiber, naturally lower in calories and fat and packed with health-promoting vitamins and minerals. “Hummus is made with chickpeas, a good source of fiber and protein, and olive oil, which is a good source of monounsaturated fat and can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats,” Miller explains. Wrap your favorite veggies and hummus in a whole-grain tortilla, and you’ve got a quick, portable lunch to go.
Dinner: Baked Salmon and Quinoa with Veggies
If you love seafood, you’re in luck—on the Mediterranean Diet, you can eat fish at least twice a week. “This meal’s combination packs in fiber and antioxidants from the vegetables along with omega-3 fatty acids from the fish,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, fitness expert and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. It also includes garlic, one of the most common ingredients used in Mediterranean cooking. “Garlic may offer protection against cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer,” Miller notes. Add a side of quinoa for a serving of whole grains—and bonus, it’s also a great source of iron and magnesium. Best of all, you won’t be hungry 45 minutes after you eat. We promise.
Dinner: Mediterranean Zoodles (Also, Wine)
Our favorite meal of the week. Using a spiralizer, make noodles out of zucchini. Cook them in a skillet with a little olive oil until they’re tender, or serve them raw—either works. Add toppings like cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, feta cheese and chicken breast. Then whisk together some extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, white vinegar, garlic, fresh parsley and salt, and pour it over the noodle mixture. Best of all, you can have a glass of wine with it. Totally on the diet, guys.
Dessert: Baked Pears with Walnuts, Raisins and Honey
Yes, you can still eat dessert. But fruit is your friend, people. It’s naturally sweet but lower in calories, so it’s a great option. “At just 100 calories, one medium pear delivers a little over 5 grams of fiber, 10 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and 5% of the daily value for potassium,” Miller tells us. “The potassium helps promote healthy blood pressure, and the fiber helps promote healthy blood cholesterol levels.” Add a touch of sweetness with raisins and honey and some healthy crunch with nuts.
Dessert: Greek Yogurt with Cherries and Almonds
End the day with a dose of protein, calcium and a sweet superfood. “Cherries offer potential anti-inflammatory benefit, as do almonds,” says Miller. “They also provide vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help fight inflammation in the body and stop the development of plaque in your arteries.” It’s decadent, filling and the perfect end to a healthier, happier day.