Weight loss: How Mediterranean diets help combat stress (and lose weight fast)

The Mediterranean diet, full of fish and olive oil, is great for losing weight. But new studies show it'll also reduce stress

Weight loss Mediterranean diet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's well-known the Mediterranean diet is very good for cardiovascular health and weight loss. The diet, which contains lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, oily fish (usually done on one of our best grill options) and whole grains, has been proven to be very effective in reducing body weight, body mass index, and fat mass. 

This is thought to be because it is very light on red meat, which can be a cardiovascular risk in excess, and it's light on starchy "white" carbs, which turn into fat very easily. 

However, it's not just good for your waist line and heart health: A new study from the American Psychological Association has found the Mediterranean diet could also be instrumental in tackling stress. 

The study found Western diets, which were heavy on animal proteins, had the potential to increase activity in the nervous system and speed up the production of cortisol. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone", and it's responsible for our caveman-like "fight or flight" reactions. 

However, we don't often need those primal responses in the modern world, especially a world in which we're staying home more and more often as a result of the global health crisis. Reducing the production of cortisol by modifying our diets will inevitably make us less stressed in the long run. 

Mediterranean diet for weight loss

(Image credit: Getty)

Dr. Carol A Shively, one of the study's principal investigators, said: "Our study showed that the Mediterranean diet shifted the balance toward the parasympathetic nervous system, which is good for health.

"By contrast, the Western diet increased the sympathetic response to stress, which is like having the panic button on all the time -- and that isn't healthy."

The Med diet is full of oily fish, nuts and olive oil, which are all full of healthy fats. Harvard University has found omega-3 fatty acids travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain, potentially boosting mood and reducing symptoms of depression. 

Studies have also found a diet full of oily fish improved sleep time, latency and quality, boosting mood during the day thanks to an increased vitamin D intake from the fish.

Liked this?

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.