Eating for a Healthy Brain
By Kate Gardner
A brain-healthy diet. It doesn't roll off the tongue as well as a heart-healthy diet, but it's just as important. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death across the world, and we know that diet plays a big roll in keeping your heart healthy. But your brain needs healthy food, too! Fortunately, evidence published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that the Mediterranean diet may be good for your heart and your brain!
The study, conducted in Spain, followed three groups: one group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with a liter of extra-virgin olive oil per week, a second group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams per day of mixed nuts, and a third group ate a reduced fat diet. Participants were given tests to measure different parts of their cognitive abilities. Those who had eaten either the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts typically showed an increase in their cognitive test scores. Those who had eaten the reduced fat diet showed a decrease in their scores.
Researchers speculate that the Mediterranean diet may protect the brain in the same ways it protects the heart. The Mediterranean diet is high antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Consuming these foods might protect vessels in the brain as well as the rest of the body, which may reduce cognitive decline associated with aging. The study's authors stress that this isn't proof of a causal relationship (meaning they can't say eating the Mediterranean diet will stop age-related cognitive decline). But when added to the numerous other studies that have found benefits, eating a Mediterranean diet is likely a good thing!
According to MayoClinic.com, the Mediterranean diet consists primarily of plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables), whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Olive oil is typically used, instead of butter, and herbs and spices are used to season food, instead of salt. The diet calls for very little red meat, relying on fish and poultry instead. Several studies have born out the impact of eating a Mediterranean diet. It is associated with a number of health benefits, such as a reduction in heart disease as well as a reduction in the incidence of some kinds of cancer.
Bookstores and the internet abound with more information about the Mediterranean diet, why it's good for you, and recipes to try. Take a look to see if it's right for you!
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