For brain health, Mediterranean diet comes out on top

Many of us are concerned about our brain health as we age.

Now, a recent study shows people who stick to a Mediterranean diet have better brain function at midlife than those who eat other types of diets.

Dr. Lindsay Malone, of Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the study but said time and time again, the Mediterranean diet comes out on top, because of the nutrients it provides.

“When people eat the Mediterranean diet, they have this nice foundation of good, nutrient-dense foods that are providing vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and that’s why we see it again and again, having a positive impact on things like cognitive functioning, heart health, blood sugar balance, and weight management,” she said. 

The study examined the eating habits of 2,621 adults, while in their thirties, and then looked at their brain function 25 and 30 years later.

Researchers found those who closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 46 percent less likely to have poor brain function at midlife than those who ate other diets.

Malone said the Mediterranean diet is likely helpful for brain function because it relies on vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains -- and there is something good for every part of the body in these items. 

She said people who eat the Mediterranean diet tend to have an easier time sticking to it, without feeling deprived, as the diet allows for limited amounts of red wine, dark chocolate and quality dairy.

Malone said the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet is focusing on the quality of what we’re eating, rather than just the quantity.

“Whenever you’re adding something, especially something that is filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it’s going to elbow out something that is less healthy for you, and take up some space in your diet, while providing something of value,” she said. 

For those who’d like to try eating the Mediterranean diet, but aren’t sure where to begin, Malone said to start by eating more vegetables, and that doesn’t mean eating a salad every day. She suggests roasting vegetables or adding them to things like chili, soup or even pasta.

Complete results of the study can be found in Neurology.