Eating a Mediterranean diet boosts brain health

Eating a Mediterranean diet boosts brain health

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Olive oil and nuts are the new superfoods for brain health according to a new study from Spain.

The Mediterranean diet has long been a popular choice for people wanting to eat their way towards a healthier heart.

SLIDESHOW: Everyday superfoods for a healthy heart

And now it seems the benefits of a Mediterranean diet that’s rich in nuts and olive oil, extend to brain health too

A new study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine included 447 older adults who were randomly assigned to one of the following groups:

  • Mediterranean diet with an additional 5 tablespoons of extra virgin  olive oil a day (a total of 1 litre a week)
  • Mediterranean diet with an additional 30 g a day of mixed nuts- 15 g of walnuts and the remaining 15 g a mix of almonds and hazelnuts
  • Control group that was asked to follow a low fat diet
After 4 years the researchers found that in the Mediterranean diet plus mixed nuts group there was an increase in memory function when compared with the control group.

In the Mediterranean plus olive oil group there was an improvement in things like working memory, reasoning and attention when compared to the control group.

Overall, both Mediterranean diets showed the potential to help decrease age-related decline in cognitive function when compared with the control group.

READ MORE: Your guide to brain health

How does it work?

“The beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diets on cognition probably stems from the abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that they provide, “ the researchers wrote. “[…] extra virgin olive oil and nuts are particularly rich in phenolic compounds that might counteract oxidative processes in the brain.”

Source: JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 11, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.1668

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet follows traditional eating from countries such as Spain, Greece, and southern France.

The emphasis is on vegetables, olive oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains and fish and seafood- making it a diet high in antioxidants, omega- 3 and monounsaturated fatty acids and fibre and low in saturated fat.

To eat a Mediterranean style diet be sure to eat more:
  • Extra virgin olive
    Consumed unheated as a salad dressing or with bread, olive oil retains its high antioxidant content. It is also low in saturated fats and rich in healthy fats
  • Vegetables
    Vegetables are packed with fibre, nutrients, and antioxidants while being low in fat and kilojoules. Look to include plenty of vegetables in your diet
  • Legumes
    Legumes are rich in fibre and protein. There are many varieties to choose from, and they are ideal for soups, salads and dips
  • Nuts & seeds
    Once thought of as a dietary bad guy, nuts are packed with fibre, protein and healthy fats. Eat them in salads, spreads and as a snack
  • Whole grains
    Grains are a great source of nutrients and fibre. Choose grains that have been minimally processed and are on the lower end of the glycemic index
  • Seafood
    Fish and other seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an important type of essential fat

Dinner tonight: Salmon burgers with seasonal salad

Salmon burger

  • 500 g fresh skinless & boneless salmon fillet, chopped
  • 1 free range egg
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for cooking
Make 4 patties and coat in the almond meal. Rest the patties in the fridge for about 5 to 1 minutes.  Lightly fry in a pan in a little olive oil until brown on both sides.

Salad

  • 2 cups mixed greens leaves (baby spinach, rocket etc.)
  • ½ punnet cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups of roasted pumpkin, chopped
  • Seeds of half a pomegranate
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
Combine salad ingredients in a bowl.  Dress with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.