The Buzz: The Mediterranean diet may help ward off dementia.
What They’re Saying: Seniors who follow a Mediterranean diet have better retention of mental skills and cognition.
What We Know
The Mediterranean diet is based on the diet and lifestyle habits of people living in southern Italy, the Greek island of Crete and other areas of Greece in the early 1960s. The diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and consists of oily fish, fruit, vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates, nuts, olive oil and moderate intake of wine. The diet limits intake of saturated fat, meat and dairy products. A recent study suggests that not only is the Mediterranean diet linked to a decreased risk for developing heart disease, but it also may help to ward off dementia.
How Do We Know This?
Over 17,000 men and women, with an average age of 64 years old, were involved in a nationwide study on stroke. Over the 4-year study period, 7% of the participants reported problems with thinking and cognitive ability. Throughout the study participants were tested on thinking and cognitive skills. Those who more greatly adhered to a Mediterranean diet during the study had a decreased risk of cognitive impairment and were 13% less likely to develop thinking and memory problems. The study also found that the participants suffering from diabetes who were also following the Mediterranean diet did not notice an improvement in cognitive ability, while nondiabetics were 19% less likely to develop thinking and memory problems.*
The Mediterranean diet encourages increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Its link to decreased risk of developing heart disease, and possibly dementia, amplify the reason to eat more fruits and vegetables.
An easy way to ensure your family is getting enough fruits and vegetables is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. There are many ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. For example, add a sliced banana to your cereal in the morning or add sliced avocado to your sandwich rather than mayonnaise.
Decrease your intake of saturated fats such as those found in bacon, butter and other animal fats, and increase your intake of healthy fats. Many fruits and vegetables (avocados, soybeans, etc.) and nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) contain the heart-healthy fats that are characteristic of the Mediterranean diet.
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