The traditional Mediterranean diet contains a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, a moderate amount of fish, dairy, and wine, as well as a limited intake of red meat. There have been more and more studies suggesting that this type of diet, whether it’s the certain components or the whole enchilada -it’s still not clear – can have a beneficial effect on various aspects of human health.
My own aim is to use red meat and poultry as little as possible but instead adding more vegetables into my diet. Little more like they do in Japan or in the Chinese countryside: use meat as a spice, more than the main dish. What comes to seafood, due to the lack of sustainable seafood and a number of toxins, I choose not to eat tuna or wild seabass for example and make sure my fish is sustainable (you can use this great UK based fish finder or find one that suits your location: http://www.goodfishguide.org/fishfinder…).
Consuming more plant-based food is not only good for our overall well-being, but also for our cognitive functioning. Good carbohydrates, that are full of nutrition such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, rich in fibre, and have a low glycemic index – can all be received from whole plant-based food. I’m not saying we all need to go vegan, but the harsh reality is that people in western societies consume meat way over the recommendation today.
Choosing a diet rich in veggies and fruits may keep you from developing a chronic disease and may delay the onset of dementia. There seem to be only two vitamins not available in plants: vitamins D and B12, so these are needed from other sources. Organic fruits and vegetables have more nutritional value and fewer toxins so, therefore, they are recommended. But either organic or not, it shouldn’t prevent people from eating plant-based food.
Healthy fats are crucial in your diet. Whenever we eat a source of carbohydrate or sugars, it should be accompanied by a quality source of fat. Fat slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and prevents sugar highs and sugar crashes. Fat also keeps you satisfied after a meal. Healthy fats include for example grass fed butter (helps your brain function properly) or Ghee (clarified butter), virgin coconut oil (great anti-inflammatory food), virgin olive oil (omega 3-6-9, helps chronic inflammation), MCT-oil, and DHA, EPA found in fish oils (omega-3). Avocados, nuts (almonds) and seeds (flaxseeds, chia) are also a great source of healthy fats. Meditarrean diet is full of these healthy fats.
Fat is also a major source of energy. It helps you absorb some oil-soluble vitamins and minerals and it’s the fuel of human metabolism, brain, nerves and body. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. For long-term health, some fats are better than others. Good, high-quality fats contribute to better cognition, better memory, faster learning and greater resistance to stress and depression. It seems to be extremely hard or even impossible to obtain a versatile healthy fat supply with purely vegetable food. Vegans, for example, tend to have severe deficiencies for vitamins A and B12 or omega-3 fatty acids. Low-quality unhealthy fat clogs up our blood vessel degrade our brain and promote oxidation and inflammation. Sometimes “unhealthy” fat is simply too much “good fat” when the good effects are turned harmful (such as omega-6 fatty acid).
Instead what low-quality unhealthy fat does, is that it clogs up our blood vessel degrade our brain and promote oxidation and inflammation. Trans fats are obviously unhealthy but sometimes “unhealthy” fat is simply too much “good fat” and that’s when the good effects are turned harmful (such as too much omega-6 fatty acids).
One of the big misleading studies in the 1950s and ’60s was about oxidised cholesterol and not the cholesterol itself. The sick brain seems to have, according to the recent studies, a severe lack of cholesterol. Evidence shows that elderly people actually benefit from high cholesterol and the high cholesterol are scientifically connected to a long lifespan and memory functioning while low cholesterol has been associated with poorer memory, lower scores on abstract reasoning, attention and concentration, verbal fluency and executive function. Science has also managed to prove that the new synapses in the brain require cholesterol, that sleeks the cell membranes together and by doing so enables the signals easily go through the synapses. Cholesterol also helps the fast information transfer in the brain. In other words, cholesterol enhances the right function and communication in the brain. Cholesterol also functions as an antioxidant in the brain and is a precursor of vitamin D, which is also a very strong tame for inflammation.
“Feed your head: Fatty acids make up to 60% of the brain’s solid matter. DHA and cholesterol are two key players. About a third of the brain’s fat consist of the omega-3 fatty acids (DHA). Although the brain has only 2% of the body’s weight, it has 25% of its cholesterol.” – “The neurogenesis diet & lifestyle, Update your brain, Upgrade your life” by Brant Cortright PhD.
When talking about Mediterranean diet, there’s one thing that can’t be ignored – wine! One of the wonders of wine (especially red) is the resveratrol which is a natural compound found especially in the skin of red grapes. When used in moderation, it’s told to work as a support for body’s immune and defence system. It also slows down ageing, helps depression, prevents fat cells to be formed and improves blood supply to the brain preventing dementia for example. There was a study made at Northumbria University in Britain 2010 where 22 students were given resveratrol just before difficult mentality tests. During the tests, the blood circulation in the brain was measured to speed up significantly. The harder the task, the more resveratrol affected.
But nevertheless, I find these studies very promising when it comes to health and ageing. My late grandmother had an Alzheimer’s disease and I might carry those genes myself, but I wouldn’t be too worried. Now that we know, how much we can have an influence on our own health, with our lifestyle and food choices. We can either open or close those genes that carry health or disease and change the state of chronic inflammation in our body – the #1 reason for most diseases. Anyway, promising I would say!