Mediterranean Diet Improves Heart and Brain Health
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. People who eat according to the traditional cuisine of countries like Italy, Greece and Spain, have less small blood vessel damage in the brain than those who follow typical American diets, full of saturated fats, red meat and refined grains.
It is proven by scientists and researchers that consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables, in addition to using olive oil in the Mediterranean foods along with the consumption of fish, positions the Mediterranean diet uniquely as the perfect brain diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, A, C and E. These vitamins are essential for proper brain functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids that come from fish and olive oil are also essential, because they are our primary source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the most abundant omega 3 fatty acid found in the cell membranes of brain cells. DHA protects against “normal wear and tear” on the brain and enhances learning and memory and improves communication between synapses.
Here are some specific ways for you to get started on the Mediterranean diet:
1. Eat fruits and vegetables and switch to whole grains
Try to eat seven to ten servings a day of vegetables and fruits. Switch to whole-bread and cereal, and try to mix your white rice/pasta with whole grain rice/pasta. You can keep apples, bananas or baby carrots on hand for a quick and healthy snack.
2. Eat nuts and seeds
You should consume a small amount of almonds, pistachios and walnuts daily. Peanut butter is fine too, but chose the kind without hydrogenated fat added. You can add sesame, sunflower, and flax seeds to your salads and make them even healthier and tastier.
3. Eat fish
It’s advisable to eat fish at least twice a week. The healthiest choices are tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. Fish is a nutrient-dense food, packed with proteins, vitamin B-12 and iron. All three are vital for good heart and brain health. If possible, try to avoid fried fish, unless it’s made in canola oil.
4. Go easy on the butter
While real butter has a few health benefits, you can also try olive or canola oil as a replacement, because they contain less saturated fat (7 grams vs. 2 grams per tablespoon) and are rich in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.
5. Choose low-fat dairy
One of the easiest ways to get calcium and high-quality protein in your diet is through dairy products. Best choices are fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, plain non-fat yogurt, unflavored soy milk, and low-fat cheese.
6. Use herbs and spices instead of salt
You can spice up your food and improve its taste with various herbs and spices, which are also rich in health-promoting substances. Here is a list of herbs and spices which are extremely rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties:
- dried red peppers,
- thyme, and
7. Drink red wine
If it’s OK with your doctor, have a glass of red wine at dinner. If you don’t drink alcohol, there is no need to start.