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How The Mediterranean Diet Can Power Up Your Brain

How The Mediterranean Diet Can Power Up Your Brain

The Mediterranean diet combines the basics of healthy eating with the traditional ingredients and flavors of the countries along the Mediterranean sea. It all started in the 1960s, when researchers observed that countries like Italy and Greece had lower deaths from coronary heart disease. Later clinical study discovered that the Mediterranean diet also helps boost brain power and delay cognitive deterioration and memory loss.

The composition of the Mediterranean diet

To understand how the Mediterranean diet can boost brain power and delay memory loss, we need to look at the main components:

  • Moderate portions of dairy products
  • Eating fatty fish weekly
  • Reduced consumption of red meat
  • Adding poultry, beans, and eggs into meals
  • Daily intake of vegetables and fruits
  • Incorporating whole grains and healthy fats
  • Using of olive oil and nuts

This comes with sharing fun meals with friends and family while enjoying a glass of red wine and, of course, having an active lifestyle.

Why these ingredients are good for brain health

There is no strict list of ingredients for a Mediterranean diet because the term refers to cuisines of various countries. But these staples of the Mediterranean diet are known for helping with memory loss and improving brain health:

Fish

Fatty fish tops the list when people talk about brain food. 60 percent of the brain is fat, and half of it is the omega-3 kind. These fats are vital for memory and learning. Adding fatty fish to your diet can sharpen your memory and protect your brain from cognitive decline. Try eating cold-water types like salmon, mackerel, and herring.

Fruits and vegetables

Numerous studies suggest that fruits and vegetables can improve brain health. They are also closely related to the reduced risk of various diseases. For example, plant-based foods have polyphenols that can reduce the free radicals found in your body. These plant chemicals also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which help lower your cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, and slow down cognitive decline. Spinach, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, blueberries, eggplants, and bell peppers are great additions to your diet.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

As one of the healthiest cooking oils out there, extra-virgin olive oil has clear benefits for your mind and body. It is abundant in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties that enhance the overall function of the brain. Use it in salads and cooking.

Nuts

Healthy nuts like walnuts and almonds have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that can help prevent cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. This is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is famous for being good for memory loss. You can add nuts like walnuts, pistachios, and almonds to your salads, main dishes, and desserts.

Beans

Widely available and versatile, beans have significant amounts of fiber, protein, and polyphenols. They also keep you for for longer and help in concentration and memory. Try adding white, red, black, or pinto beans to your soups, salads, and stews.

Wine

Consuming small amounts of red wine a day is good for the brain. It can tamp down inflammation and act as a “cleaning agent” for the brain by removing toxins. Experts suggest limiting consumption to maximum one glass a day for women and two glasses a day for men.

The Mediterranean diet, memory loss, and brain health

A study by JAMA Internal Medicine used the dietary pattern of Mediterranean diet to test its effects on brain health. This diet involved a significant presence of olive oil and nuts to help alleviate age-related deterioration in cognitive function.

There were 447 participants, 55 to 80 years old, who were cognitively healthy. The researchers divided the participants into three. The first two groups followed the Mediterranean diet by either adding either 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or 30 grams of mixed nuts daily. Meanwhile, the third group was recommended to pursue a low-fat diet. All of them were followed for an average of more than four years.

By following the Mediterranean diet, the memory function of the group that ate nuts became stronger while the frontal and global cognition of the group that had olive oil were better supported.

Olive oil and nuts are supplemental foods rich in phenolic compounds. They also have a lot of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, leading to a delayed decline of cognitive function. So to diminish age-related cognitive deterioration, you can add five tablespoons of olive oil and a handful of mixed nuts a day to your diet.

Key Takeaways

Maintaining a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients good for the brain can reduce your risk of having cognitive impairment later on in life. Following Mediterranean diet is great for delaying memory loss and improving brain health. Of course, other lifestyle factors, like regular physical activity, are also crucial to achieving a healthy brain.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

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Sources

Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801, Accessed December 14, 2020.

Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline, https://jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2293082, Accessed December 14, 2020.

Mediterranean-style diets linked to better brain function in older adults, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170725154208.htm, Accessed December 14, 2020.

Mediterranean Diet Improves Cognition, Memory, and Brain Volume, https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0618p40.shtml, Accessed December 14, 2020.

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Written by Tracey Romero on Dec 14, 2020
Medically reviewed by Chris Icamen
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