There is mounting evidence suggesting that Mediterranean diet, which is rich in lean protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, can be effective in improving cognitive function. Mediterranean diet is not a new recipe, but new research has found out that it comes with a host of health benefits for the brain. In reference to several studies published in the journal Epidemiology, researchers demonstrated a strong connection between Mediterranean-style diet and better cognitive function, lowered decline in brain, and reduced risks of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Iliana Lourida, the lead study author, this is yet another study to systematically analyze all existing evidence between Mediterranean diet and improved brain function.
How to Apply Mediterranean Diet?
If you are following a Mediterranean diet, you should:
1. Limit the intake of foods high in sugar.
2. Limit the intake of red meat.
3. Consume more fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, nuts, whole grain, and healthy fats, such as olive oil.
This diet downplays processed foods. Although the diet recommends olive oil as a source of health fat, you shouldn’t use it in cooking because it is highly susceptible to oxidative damage when heated. Olive oil should therefore be added to salads and other cold dishes. In its unrefined and unheated form, olive oil contains vitamins A and E, magnesium, squalene, chlorophyll, and other cardio-protective nutrients.
Role In Boosting Cognitive Function
Previous studies have shown that people who rely on Mediterranean diet are at a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Until recently, it was discovered that people who eat this way have the ability to make healthier lifestyle choices that help to decrease Alzheimer’s. To shed more light on the connection between the diet and cognition, about 450 seniors with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, overweight and high cholesterol, were randomly picked to follow one of three diets
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with one liter of extra virgin oil every week.
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams of nuts on a daily basis
- A low-fat diet
According to report by Reuters, tests performed on the brain function before and after the study led to the realization that seniors who were eating low-fat foods significantly decreased their memory and cognitive function.
The group that followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts showed significant improvements in memory. Surprisingly, the participants who relied on a Mediterranean diet supplemented with virgin olive oil had remarkable better cognitive function.
Importance of Healthy Fats
These findings add extra evidence on the importance of eating foods containing healthy fats to boost brain function. A normal human brain has about 60% of fat. Some of the best sources of fats include fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, wild-caught Alaska salmon, and krill oil supplementation. These sources are also rich in omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids which are renowned in promoting cognitive function. Recent studies indicate omega-3 supplementation improves attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as cognitive control in children. Other studies suggest that combination of omega-3s with vitamin D helps to improve cognitive functions and psychiatric conditions like ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Omega 3 fatty acids fight inflammation that inhibits production of serotonin, the hormone that controls your mood.
Top Health Benefits Of Omega-3 You Should Know
Mediterranean Diet Pitfalls
According to neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the Grain Brain, gluten sensitivity plays a major role in most chronic illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s. In addition, non-vegetable carbohydrates contain toxic compounds that can impair the function of your brain. Perlmutter says that although the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends staying away from fats when making dietary choices, most devastating chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be worsened by substituting fats for corn-based carbohydrates.
Protecting Your Brain With Healthier Lifestyle Choices
Other than Mediterranean diet, there are several lifestyle strategies through which you can optimize the function of your brain. They include:
- Regular exercises: Engage in physical activities, particularly high-intensity interval training to improve your mood and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Intermittent fasting: This reduces calorie intake and is easier to comply with. Get calories from non-vegetable carbohydrates.
- Eat healthy fats: Perlmutter says that a low-carb diet rich in fats can be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s
- Omega-3 fats supplementation: Fish oil and Krill oil contain omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin, a carotenoid compound which is very critical for your brain in reducing free-radical-mediated damage.
- Vitamin D supplementation: Deficiencies in vitamin D, particularly in older adults has been linked with poorer brain function.
- Sleep adequately: Sleep plays important role for optimal health of your body and brain. It is only during sleep that your brain gets a chance to detoxify. Poor sleepers are at an increased risk of developing neurological problems, such as Alzheimer’s and depression.
- Drop unhealthy habits: Excessive alcohol use, drug abuse, and smoking are some of the habits you should drop if you want to remain in sound health. Though quitting can be challenging, the health benefits are long lasting and medical professionals are very willing to assist.
Mediterranean diet is one of the best plans to keep your weight in control while improving your brain function. It is easier to stick with because you can get all the essential minerals and nutrients from various food sources. On top of this, Mediterranean diet comes with other health benefits for preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain types of cancer. To boost the effectiveness of Mediterranean diet, make simple lifestyle changes that are healthy to improve the quality of your life.