The Mediterranean Pathway to Better Mental and Liver Health
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One of the most important things you can do to improve your mental wellbeing is to take good care of your body by eating a healthy diet. And the good news is your liver will thank you too!
This article will explore the popular Mediterranean Pattern of Eating and how it not only benefits your liver but also your brain.
How food affects your mental health
Your brain uses more energy than any other organ in your body. For the average adult, the brain uses 20 per cent (or one fifth) of our total daily energy requirements. When we eat healthy, nutritious foods our brain is provided with many of the essential nutrients it needs to perform at its best.
Making healthy food choices is linked with better stress management, improved sleep quality, increased concentration and better mental wellbeing in general.
While many of us have heard of the benefits of superfoods, there is no superfood for mental wellbeing. Experts agree it is about balance, variety and eating from the five food groups.
Liver health and food
One in four Australians have fatty liver disease and while you may not experience any symptoms, it can cause significant health problems including permanent liver damage.
Fatty liver disease is becoming more common throughout Western societies, with what we drink and eat a leading risk factor. If you drink too much alcohol or eat too much food your body deals with this excess by turning some of the calories into fat that is stored in the liver.
What is a Mediterranean Pattern of Eating?
Many liver specialists and nutrition experts recommend the Mediterranean Pattern of Eating (or Mediterranean Diet) to keep our bodies healthy and functioning at their best.
The Mediterranean Pattern of Eating is based on the traditional foods eaten by people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and consists of healthy whole foods with very few processed foods.
Key foods include:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Vegetables and fruit
- Wholegrain breads and cereals
- Legumes and beans
The healthy food combinations in the Mediterranean Pattern of Eating have been found to have a range of benefits including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has found people who followed this pattern of eating had a lower risk of many lifestyle diseases including fatty liver disease.
While many of us know a healthy diet can have a big impact on our mental health, evidence is now emerging about the positive impact a Mediterranean Pattern of Eating can have on our mental health.
Tips to embrace the Mediterranean Pattern of Eating into your diet
- Replace oils, margarines and butter with extra virgin olive oil
- Replace meat with more vegetables
- Add legumes into mince dishes
- Switch red meats for fish or poultry
- Add nuts to salads.
View the Qld Health Mediterranean Diet factsheet for more information on the Mediterranean Pattern of Eating including meal and snack ideas.
Queensland Mental Health Week (QMHW) is an annual awareness week that aims to shine a spotlight on individual and community mental health and wellbeing across the state. QMHW is a useful reminder to take time to engage in activities that boost our mental health and wellbeing.