We love this salad, as it means summer is here and we can sit outside and enjoy these amazing flavours and textures. This salad has evolved over the years and occasionally takes a different direction, but this is our family favourite.
Pre heat your oven to 150.
We all look forward to a summer holiday, a chance to switch off, relax and recharge. If you are heading to the Med, chances are you will enjoy better weather than here, (even if a little bit hotter than usual) and you will sample the delights of the much-venerated Mediterranean diet!
So, what is the Mediterranean diet and how might can it boost our mood?
The Mediterranean diet is rich in colourful plant foods, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil with moderate amounts of fish and white meat but only small amounts of red meat and dairy foods. It is notably low in sugar, refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice etc), and saturated or trans fats.
An inflammatory mechanism is one theory for what causes mental health disorders, in fact some scientists are now questioning whether antidepressant medications such as SSRIS may primarily be beneficial because they have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Interestingly, the plentiful coloured plant pigments, high fibre content and omega-3 fats in the Mediterranean diet all add up to a powerful anti-inflammatory cocktail which helps to combat the raised inflammatory markers that are often observed in people with depression and anxiety.
In addition to being anti-inflammatory, the low content of sugar and refined carbohydrates in the Mediterranean diet supports better blood sugar balance. Having poorly controlled blood sugar levels or a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are both known risk factors for developing depression or other mental health disorders 4.
Plant fibre is important for good gut health – and there is increasing evidence for the link between gut health and brain health. Gut microbes produce chemicals that can act directly on the brain to influence mood and it is clear from animal studies that changing the pattern of gut microbes can influence behaviour. It is also a little-known fact that the gut makes large quantities of the same neurotransmitters that are used in the brain - although it is currently unclear exactly how these may be acting on the brain. Eating a Mediterranean diet is certainly associated with having a much more diverse and healthier pattern of gut microbes.
Finally, the quality protein from fish and white meat provides essential amino acids and other nutrients that the body needs to make neurotransmitters without high levels of the more inflammatory fats that are found in red meat and dairy products.
So, what does it all add up to?
Following these few simple dietary rules may help to increase your resilience and lower your risk for developing mental health problems.
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