Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Mediterranean Diet Significantly Reduces Depression

Reprinted from an article in Science Tech Daily, May 26, 2022

Young men with a poor diet saw a significant improvement in their symptoms of depression when they switched to a healthy Mediterranean diet, a new study shows.

Depression is a widespread mental health issue that affects roughly 300 million people globally each year. It is a substantial risk factor for suicide, the largest cause of mortality among young people. The 12-week randomized controlled trial, conducted by experts from the University of Technology Sydney, was recently published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

According to lead researcher Jessica Bayes, a Ph.D. candidate at the UTS Faculty of Health, the study was the first randomized clinical trial to examine the influence of a Mediterranean diet on depressive symptoms in young males (aged 18 to 25).

“We were surprised by how willing the young men were to take on a new diet,” Bayes said. “Those assigned to the Mediterranean diet were able to significantly change their original diets, under the guidance of a nutritionist, over a short time frame.”

“It suggests that medical doctors and psychologists should consider referring depressed young men to a nutritionist or dietitian as an important component of treating clinical depression,” she said.

The link between food and mood

The research contributes to the emerging subject of nutritional psychiatry, which seeks to investigate the impact of particular nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns on mental health. The study’s diet was rich in colorful vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, as well as oily fish, olive oil, and raw, unsalted nuts.

“The primary focus was on increasing diet quality with fresh whole foods while reducing the intake of ‘fast’ foods, sugar, and processed red meat,” Bayes said. “There are lots of reasons why scientifically we think food affects mood. For example, around 90 percent of serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy, is made in our gut by our gut microbes. There is emerging evidence that these microbes can communicate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis.”

“To have beneficial microbes, we need to feed them fiber, which is found in legumes, fruits, and vegetables,” she said.

Roughly 30 percent of depressed patients fail to adequately respond to standard treatments for major depressive disorder such as cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. “Nearly all our participants stayed with the program, and many were keen to continue the diet once the study ended, which shows how effective, tolerable, and worthwhile they found the intervention,” Bayes concluded.

Reference: Bayes J, Schloss J, Sibbritt D. The effect of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young males (the AMMEND study): a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022;116(2): 572-580. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqac106

Olive Oil Cake with Honey Yogurt Cream and Strawberries

Moist and fairly dense, this fruit-inflected cake is a perfect grand finale to a warm-weather meal. Blueberries can stand in for strawberries.


  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour (about 5 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided use
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest, divided use
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice (from 2 limes), divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 quarts fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1/4 cup honey


Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil. Line the bottom of the greased pan with parchment paper, and lightly grease the parchment; set the prepared pan aside.

Step 2

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.

Step 3

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric mixer) beat 1/2 cup of the sugar and the
eggs on medium-high until pale yellow and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Beat in the 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 3 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice, and the vanilla. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Step 4

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with crumbs (not wet batter) attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the outer ring, and invert the cake onto the wire rack. Remove the bottom of pan and the parchment; cool the cake completely, about 1 hour.

Step 5

Stir together the strawberries, the remaining 1 teaspoon of lime zest, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar in a medium bowl. Let the fruit stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 6

Whisk together the yogurt, cream, honey, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of lime juice until incorporated.

Step 7

Top each cake slice with large spoonfuls of the yogurt mixture and strawberries.

Serves 6 — Recipe from

Grilled Carrots with Avocado and Mint

If possible, buy fresh just-picked carrots with the tops still on (you can always make pesto out of the tops). There’s no need to peel them as the skin is thin and tender.


  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • One 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium carrots, halved lengthwise, tops trimmed to 1 inch
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves


Step 1

Prepare a grill for direct grilling and heat to medium. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool.

Step 2

Coarsely crush the cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Transfer to a large bowl. Add lemon juice and honey. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil until combined, then stir in the chile and ginger. Season with salt. Let sit until ready to serve, which will give the chile and ginger time to infuse into the sauce.

Step 3

Toss the carrots with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Grill the carrots, turning occasionally, until lightly charred in spots and tender, 14 to 18 minutes. Immediately transfer the carrots to the bowl with the sauce. Toss to coat; season with salt.

Step 4

Arrange the avocado and carrots on a platter. Spoon any remaining sauce over them, then top with mint. Serve the carrots warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 — Recipe from

Grilled Broccoli Rabe with Salsa Rossa

Broccoli rabe (also known as rapini) is a deliciously bitter green closely related to turnips. To ensure tenderness, the stalks are blanched, then grilled. You’ll find the Salsa Rossa pairs well with many green vegetables—green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.


For the Salsa Rossa

  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pickled hot peppers, plus 1/4 cup brine from the jar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

For the broccoli rabe

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Pecorino Romano, for serving


Step 1

Make the Salsa Rossa: In a saucepan, boil 1 cup of water. Remove from the heat. Add the tomatoes and hot red pepper flakes. Let stand until the tomatoes are softened, 15 minutes.

Step 2

Transfer the tomatoes and their liquid to a blender. Add the roasted pepper, pickled peppers, brine, and vinegar and puree until very smooth. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oregano and sugar. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Step 3

Make the broccoli rabe: Set up an ice bath (a large bowl of water and ice). In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath. Drain and pat dry.

Step 4

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a bowl, toss the broccoli rabe with the oil, then season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Serve with the Salsa Rossa and Pecorino.

Serves 4 to 6 — Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, September 2016