Food for Thought: How The Mediterranean Style Diet Can Boost Your Brain Power and Happiness

Our brains and mood can be impacted by what food we put in our bodies. And the Mediterranean way of eating can be a game-changer for your brain power and happiness. Here’s what you can borrow from their plates.

Feeding our bodies with the nutrient-dense foods doesn’t just make our bodies feel better - it’s scientifically proven to boost our mood and focus too. By eating a mix of nutrient-dense foods (and avoiding processed sugary foods) you will see a boost in your mood, your focus and overall wellbeing.
‘The brain gets built from food. So there is a very fundamental connection’ Dr Drew Ramsay
There are a bunch of foods you can eat to keep your gut and your brain happy, and the Mediterranean way of eating ticks a lot of boxes. So, let's raise a glass of olive oil and dive into what to incorporate into your plate 😉

The power of the Mediterranean Plate

When it comes to improving our mental wellbeing, the Mediterranean style diet has been gaining attention as a winning recipe. Their plates include an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats (hello olive oil). Not only is this style of diet delicious and diverse, but it's also backed by scientific research for its potential to boost mood, reduce depression, and improve overall mental health.
So, what makes the Mediterranean style diet so powerful for happiness and mental health? Let's take a closer look at some key components:
1. Healthy Fats The Mediterranean style diet emphasises healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, nuts, and fish. These fats are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation in the body and brain and promote the production of serotonin. Incorporating these healthy fats into your diet can help keep your brain happy and your mood lifted.
Examples - Olive Oil - Fish - Nuts - Avocado
2. Fatty Fish Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Omega-3s have also been shown promote the growth of new brain cells, and improve cognitive function. A study in 2016 found that a diet rich in Omega-3s improved working memory and cognitive performance in healthy young adults. So, don't forget to add some fatty fish to your diet for a brain boost!
Examples - Salmon - Mackerel - Sardines
3. Antioxidant-Rich Foods The Mediterranean style diet is packed with antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Antioxidants help fight oxidative stress in the brain which can reduce depression and anxiety. Including a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables on your plate can provide your body and brain with the necessary antioxidants to thrive.
Examples - Blueberries - Pecans - Walnuts - Spinach - Sweet Potatoes
4. Leafy Greens Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, are packed with essential nutrients linked to improved brain function and mood. Studies have shown that folate, a B-vitamin found in leafy greens, plays a crucial role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and happiness. So, load up on those greens for a natural mood boost!
Examples - Kale - Spinach - Swiss Chard - Cavelo Nero
5. Complex Carbohydrates The Mediterranean style diet focuses on whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread, which are complex carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are digested more slowly, providing a steady and sustained source of energy for the brain, and avoiding the blood sugar spikes and crashes that can negatively impact mood and productivity.
Examples - Brown Rice - Quinoa - Beans - Sweet Potato

What foods should you avoid over-consuming for better brain clarity and happiness?

There’s also a selection of foods that have become popular in Western diets that aren’t the best for your focus or mood. It's no secret that certain foods can leave you feeling sluggish and foggy-headed, making it difficult to stay on task. So which ones should you be aware of consuming a lot of?
“If you put shampoo into a car engine, you’re not going to scratch your head when the thing conks out” Dale Pinnock
1. High-sugar foods High sugar foods such as sweets, sugary drinks, pastries, can cause blood sugar spikes followed by crashes, leading to a rollercoaster of energy levels throughout the day. It has been found that higher sugar intake is associated with lower cognitive function, impaired memory, and reduced attention span.
2. Refined carbs Such as white bread and sugary cereals can also cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes and decreased cognitive function. Try and consume fibre before you consume refined carbs to reduce the spikes, or replace them with whole wheats or grains.
3. Processed foods Foods that include a lot of preservatives have been linked to inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, which can impair cognitive function and negatively impact mood. Try cooking up a sauce instead of using a pre-made one in the supermarkets. It can actually be cheaper too!
We’re all about balance at Unplugged, so we’re not saying restrict your diets - rather try to actively incorporate foods that are going to make you feel good rather than sluggish. Chapter 12 in one of our fave books, Stolen Focus, has a great few pages to read how our diets can impact our focus.

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