Many doctors have long advised their patients to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet in order to improve heart health; now some are recommending this diet in order to fight memory loss as well.
A recent National Institutes of Health-supported study published in the journal Neurology has found that older adults in the U.S. whose diets were based on the Mediterranean model were 13-19% less likely to have memory loss issues. The 19% reduction in risk applies specifically to older adults who do not have diabetic issues; the 13% refers to the population, diabetic and non-diabetic, as a whole.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
While a Mediterranean diet is often described as a diet rich in fish and olive oil, that’s not an entirely accurate description. A real Mediterranean diet is one that places a heavy emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Also, rather than focusing on how much fat is consumed, a Mediterranean diet focuses on the kind of fat in the diet. There’s good fat – monounsaturated fat – and bad fat – saturated fat and hydrogenated oils.
This is where olive oil and its good fat typically comes into play, as olive oil helps to reduce LDL cholesterol (frequently called the “bad” cholesterol) while helping to boost antioxidants. Nuts, which are also a big part of the diet, are high in fat, but like olive oil, they contain good fat; however, because nuts also tend to be high in calories, it’s important to limit them to a reasonable quantity.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts make up a large part of the diet; in Greece, typical resident eats nine fruit and vegetable servings each day.
What about meat?
Red meat is not a large part of a Mediterranean diet. It’s not forbidden, but it should be eaten less often; when individuals following the diet eat red meat, they should keep serving sizes small and the meat itself as lean as possible. Some meats, such as bacon and sausage, are so high in bad fat that they should be eaten only rarely, if at all.
Instead of eating red meat, try eating fish, especially those fishes that are high in Omega-3 fatty acid. Doctors believe that Omega-3 acids help improve heart health and blood pressure. Mediterranean-friendly fish include mackerel, tuna, salmon, and herring. Poultry is also a good red meat alternative.
Finally, dairy is good, but in moderation. It’s also best to go with low-fat alternatives: drink skim or 1% milk rather than 2% or whole.
A Mediterranean diet is no guarantee against memory loss as one ages, but more and more research indicates that it can be helpful. Do what you can to keep your mind functioning at the top of its form!