If you’re like many of us, you may not remember what you had for breakfast yesterday – or even today! Well, supporters of the Mediterranean Diet can’t promise that’ll change, but a recent study suggests that eating “Mediterranean” may help you maintain brain health.
The research, conducted in Barcelona, Spain and published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, took previous studies to a more scientific level. In the past, the research was mostly observational – it seemed like eating a Mediterranean diet might be good for the brain. This clinical trial studied 447 subjects with good cognitive health, between the ages of 55 and 80, who were divided into three groups. A control group ate a low-fat diet – previously very popular among dieters in the U.S. The other two were asked to eat a Mediterranean-type diet and add either 30 grams of nuts each day or five tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily. All three groups were followed over a four-year span.
So, first of all, just what is a Mediterranean diet? It consists of meals rich in fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains and fish. Wine is okay, but other meats and full-fat dairy are discouraged.
And? The results? Well, cognitive testing done at the beginning, during, and at the conclusion of the study found that the low-fat group saw a decline in their cognitive function over the four-year span. But both of the Mediterranean diet groups held steady.
That might not sound like much, but keeping cognitive decline at bay is a big deal according to many doctors and researchers. Especially when coupled with the findings of a 2013 study showing that a Mediterranean diet may also reduce the risk of having a stroke or heart attack by as much as 30 percent. And if you can have these health benefits by making a few changes in your diet, well, why not?
If you live at Discovery Village, you don’t need to worry about the cooking. Because residents have different culinary tastes as well as dietary restrictions, you won’t find meals that fit any one specific “diet” — but know that everything served has been carefully chosen and prepared. The health and wellness staff and professional chefs work together to come up with meals that are as good for the body as they are for the taste buds! Apartment-dwellers are provided sensational meals options, but with their own kitchens, seniors may choose to make some of their own meals “at home.” And of course, everyone enjoys dining out now and then.
So whether you live on your own or are a Discovery Village resident cooking an occasional meal (or looking for a healthy restaurant choice), why not consider adding some elements of the Mediterranean diet to your lifestyle?
Researchers point out that one of the major benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet is the large amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories found in this type of food. Olive oil, nuts and berries all contain phenols – which are high in antioxidants. And antioxidants are known to protect cells from damage and cell death. Of course, the less brain cells that die off, the better your chance of preserving memory. Oh – and did we mention that wine contains these phenols, as well?
You might also be interested to know that in addition to better heart health and the possibility of maintaining cognitive ability, eating foods favored by those along the Mediterranean coast may also increase your lifespan. The people who live there don’t necessarily eat a “Mediterranean diet” to be healthy. But since the area and its climate support an abundance of local fruits, vegetables, olives, grapes and fresh fish these foods have become the obvious choice. And it’s turned out to be a good one — this population is known for some of the longest lifespans in the world!
The good news is that it’s really never too late to benefit from changing up your eating habits. Some people worry that nuts and oils will make them fat, but the right kind will actually do just the opposite. So grab some olive oil and use it for salad dressing, marinade or to brown your meats and fish.
And for a good healthy snack, no one will call you crazy if you go a little nuts for, well, nuts. Try a handful of almonds, pistachios or cashews as an afternoon snack. Peanut butter is good for you, too, so why not spread it on an English muffin or some apple slices?
You don’t have to ditch all your favorite foods to benefit from adding a touch of the Mediterranean. Even a few dietary changes may pay off more than you think. And along the way, you’ll enjoy some pretty tasty treats!
Discovery Village At Twin Creeks offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 972.440.1218.