Mediterranean diet can diminish stress and anxiety, novel study finds

Published: 20-May-2024

The Mediterranean diet — especially including fruit, legumes and nuts — has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in older folk aged 60+

The Mediterranean diet has long been described as a great way to boost overall health, as it has been proven to reduce the risks of bowel cancer, heart disease and dementia. Supporting this sentiment, novel research from the University of South Australia has shown further benefits to the Mediterranean diet, with participants experiencing a reduction in the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Conducted in partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast, researchers assessed the impact of a Mediterranean diet on mental health among 294 older Australians (aged 60+) finding that it reduced the severity of anxiety and stress, independent of age, gender, sleep and BMI.


Reducing stress and anxiety through small changes

They also found that specific elements of the diet, including fruit, legumes, nuts and a reduction in sugary drink consumption, reduced the anxiety and stress levels of the study participants.

Dietitian and UniSA researcher Dr Evangelina Mantzioris believes that the Mediterranean diet can improve overall mental health and quality of life: “Globally, many regions are experiencing a significant ageing of their populations. Despite the increased longevity of people's lives, many still struggle with their health and wellbeing." 

“Lifestyle behaviours, including diet quality, are gaining more attention as modifiable risk factors for poor mental health, with the Mediterranean diet endorsed for reducing chronic disease risk and supporting healthy ageing. This study is another that highlights the wide-ranging benefits of the Mediterranean diet – through a relatively easy lifestyle change, people can markedly improve their stress and anxiety levels.”


The Mediterranean diet: an overview

A Mediterranean diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and seeds, nuts, legumes and olive oil. Fish and seafood should be incorporated at least twice a week, while dairy and lean proteins can be eaten daily in smaller portions. The diet encourages infrequent consumption of red meats and processed foods.

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