Hellooo, omega-3 fatty acids, aka essential fats that can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your blood pressure and triglycerides and assist in reducing inflammation. Omega-3s are also rich in vitamin D and selenium, protect the heart from erratic cardiac issues, improve blood vessel function and can even aid in prenatal and postnatal neurological development.
Since our bodies don’t produce omega-3s autonomously, it’s imperative that we consume them through food or supplements—and fish are packed with them. One to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease by 36 percent, says the American Heart Association (AHA). Then again, fish are far from the only source of omega-3s out there. “Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in chia, walnuts, hemp, algal oil and more,” says Stoler.
Fish has also been scientifically proven to work wonders for your brain. Research shows that eating baked or broiled fish at least once a week can significantly lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Fish is also known to reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses, lower triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, lower your stroke risk and aid with irregular heartbeats, says the Mayo Clinic. Due to all these perks, it’s recommended by the AHA that we have two servings of fatty fish a week (either 3½ ounces cooked or a ¾ cup of flaked fish). On the pesco Mediterranean diet, you’re likely going to consume even more.
If you still need convincing, the Mediterranean diet can even possibly boost your mood, meaning its fish-filled cousin can, too. In a 2017 study by BMC Medicine, researchers monitored a group of people with depression for 12 weeks as they tried the meal plan. By the end of the study, most participants reported a major improvement in their symptoms. Scientists have also noted a connection between fish and anxiety reduction. While a definite explanation hasn’t been discovered, researchers believe omega-3s can travel to the brain easily and positively communicate with mood-regulating molecules and neurotransmitters, says JAMA Network.
Fish and other popular Mediterranean diet foods have also been found to improve headaches and migraines. If you suffer from chronic headaches, they may be triggered by nutritional deficiencies, according to Maria Marlow, integrative nutrition health coach and author of The Real Food Grocery Guide. More magnesium (which is found in leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds), riboflavin (which is found in broccoli, eggs and almonds) and omega-3s can counteract those deficiencies.
And of course, a major benefit of this diet plan is that there’s no calorie counting required and no food groups are totally off limits (although refined sugars are largely avoided, which is inherently good for your health). The pesco Mediterranean or regular Mediterranean diets could be easy ways for you to eat more nutritiously (or even possibly lose weight) without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.