Scientific evidence has mounted that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. It can help ward off heart disease, inflammation and cancer, resulting in a longer, healthier life.
A recent study reaffirms just how good it is for the brain, too. Brain health researchers studied the relationship between the brains and diets of a Scottish group of 73-year-olds. Over a three-year period, they found that the brains of those who did not adhere to a Mediterranean diet shrunk in volume while those who stuck with the diet had larger brain volumes. The Mediterranean diet as a whole, not just eating fish or less red meat, appeared to be the reason.
Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, Director, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health notes that “more evidence is accruing that the Mediterranean diet is a key pillar of brain health. This study adds critical evidence that the Mediterranean diet slows the loss of brain structure which can impact thinking and memory.”
It’s Not Too Late
The Scottish study shows that even older adults can make a positive impact on their brain health by switching to a healthier diet. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
- fresh fruits and vegetables, especially berries and green leafy vegetables
- whole grains (e.g., oats, barley and quinoa)
- beans and legumes
- moderate consumption of fish, such as salmon, cod or tuna
- olive oil as the primary source of fat
- low consumption of low- or nonfat dairy, red meat, and poultry
- low to moderate intake of red wine with meals
It’s Never Too Early
What about children and young adults? Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases begin to develop in the brain long before producing symptoms, so it is never too early to adopt healthy lifestyles to support brain health. In addition to a great head start on preventing Alzheimer’s disease, some studies have shown the Mediterranean diet benefits kids by lowering their risk for obesity, asthma and allergies.
Take care of yourself and set a good example for your children or grandchildren in the process. Here’s a few easy food swaps and ideas to get started:
- Replace vegetable cooking oil or animal fats with olive or canola oil.
- Choose rolled oats, barley, buckwheat or other whole grain cereal for breakfast.
- Have no more than one serving of red meat per week, two servings of poultry and two or more fish entrees each week. Have plant-based meals on other days.
- Enjoy a brain-healthy meal with the children in your life. You may be the best role model they have for healthy eating.
To learn more about the Mediterranean diet and its effect on your brain health, visit: healthybrains.org/pillar-nutrition and visit healthybrains.org/recipes/ recipes page for more brain-healthy dinner ideas.