The Mediterranean Diet has long been touted for an array of health benefits. From protecting against diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes to maintaining heart and brain health and keeping you agile as you age, the Mediterranean Diet has been called the world’s healthiest way of eating. In fact, there are even some recent studies that are showing that following the Mediterranean Diet can even reduce the effects of air pollution! That is one powerful diet. It seems only right that something so rich in benefits should get due recognition and to that end, the month of May has been designated International Mediterranean Diet Month. Today, we will look at the basics of the Mediterranean Diet and the ways in which it can benefit your health and wellness, especially where the brain is concerned. We hope that you will be inspired to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into your lifestyle all 12 months of the year.
Based on the traditional foods of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean region including Greece, Italy, France and Spain, the Mediterranean Diet is filled with diverse plant-based foods, healthy fats, whole grains, seafood and even the occasional glass of wine. Simple yet delicious, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to deliver a myriad of health benefits, leading doctors and health advocates across the world to sing its’ praises. In fact, a 2013 study by the University of Barcelona followed more than 7,000 participants as they adopted a Mediterranean-style diet. These participants were overweight, smokers or diabetic… all with major health concerns. After five years, the study showed a 30% decrease in cardiovascular disease among these high-risk participants. The results were so positive, that they made headlines across the US when they were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In addition, the Mediterranean Diet has shown positive benefits for brain health. In one study that sought to examine cognitive benefits to this way of eating, researchers examined information from 5,907 older adults, beginning with questions about their eating habits. Researchers then measured the participants’ cognitive abilities, based mostly on their memory and attention skills. The researchers then compared the diets of participants to their performance on the cognitive tests. They found that older people who ate Mediterranean-type diets scored significantly better on the cognitive function tests than those who ate less healthy diets. In fact, older people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had 35% lower risk of scoring poorly on cognitive tests. Even following a moderate Mediterranean-style diet showed a 15% lower risk of doing poorly on cognitive tests, suggesting that eating the Mediterranean way is linked to better overall cognitive function. What’s more, older adults who followed these healthy diets had lower risks for having cognitive impairment in later life, noted the researchers.
The guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet are easy. Focus on a diet rich in plants, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish seafood, eggs and dairy and healthy fats. Use herbs and spices to flavor your food rather than relying on salt. Be sure to drink plenty of water and moderate amounts of coffee, tea and red wine are also ok. Avoid processed foods, anything with sugar as an ingredient, refined wheat products, refined oils and processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages. As a rule, stick to natural, whole foods that actually look like foods and do not contain a laundry list of ingredients that are hard to read or pronounce.
Want some recipe ideas for your journey into the Mediterranean Diet? Check out mediterraneanliving.com for a seemingly endless source of inspiration. And be sure to document your journey this month with #MedDietMonth!