Evidence shows that having a healthy and balanced diet is important for good physical and mental health. In order to achieve this, a good foundation in improving diet is required. Eatwell Guide produced by Public Health England (PHE) provides basic guidelines for eating healthy to achieve a balanced diet.
Eatwell Guide is similar to the principles of the Mediterranean diet, which advocates for – eating rich in plant foods (fruit, vegetables, beans nuts and seeds), starchy foods (bread and pasta), fish, less red meat, and products made from vegetable and plant oils.
Over the last few decades many studies have been conducted to see what parts of the Mediterranean diet are beneficial to our health and what their protective nature is. Research has shown that increase in unsaturated fat has links to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also shows a reduced risk in type 2 diabetes, which could be due to having better glycaemic control.
There is also a good indication that a Mediterranean diet pattern, which helps increase the required intake of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes and fish, is an important source of nutrients linked to a reduced prevalence of depression. Study has shown that increase of folate intake is associated with a reduced prevalence of depression in men, particularly in smokers. It has also found that increase in B12 intake has a protective effect over depression rates in women, and had a larger effect in smoking and physically active women.
Evidence shows that changes in our diet will positively impact our physical and mental wellbeing. When making our food choices, we need to make sure that we stick to the principles of Mediterranean diet which includes the following:
- Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Choose wholegrain starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta.
- Reduce the amount of red and processed meat.
- Eat beans or pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins which include two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily.
- Reduce intake of dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Choose low fat and low sugar options.