Foods that Help Memory: The Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Cognitive Decline

Foods that Help Memory: The Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Cognitive DeclineThe Mediterranean diet has become quite popular, and for good reason. This healthy diet, full of fish, olive oil, vegetables, and more, has been shown to help fight depression, keep your bones healthy, and lower triglycerides. But did you know that the Mediterranean diet can also protect your brain? This diet is full of foods that help memory, and it might help prevent cognitive decline and memory loss in old age.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

A Mediterranean-type diet is one that focuses on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, avoiding processed foods, refined sugars, and saturated fats. The following foods are staples of this kind of diet: olive oil and other healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, unrefined whole grains, fish, and legumes.

The Mediterranean diet may protect your memory

A recent study published in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine did cognitive tests on 334 older participants before a dietary intervention, and about four years later. One group of participants was asked to follow a Mediterranean diet plan with added olive oil (1 liter per week), another was asked to follow a Mediterranean diet plan with added nuts (30 g per day), and the last group was asked to keep their diet the same during the study.[1]

While cognitive function significantly declined in people eating their normal diets, people in both Mediterranean diet groups showed small improvements in their cognitive function over the four year follow up. Memory, in particular, was improved in the added nuts group. The researchers conclude, “Our results suggest that in an older population, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts may counteract age-related cognitive decline.”[1]

It is likely that there are many reasons why this diet is a great source of foods that prevent memory loss. For one, the diet includes many foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. For example, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts are very rich sources of phenolic compounds, which may help to fight oxidative stress in the brain and prevent neurodegeneration. The diet is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are well known for their brain boosting powers.[1]

Following the Mediterranean diet

Whether you’ve started to notice signs of memory loss, or you want to be proactive in keeping your brain healthy, try out the Mediterranean diet to see if you notice any of the incredible health benefits it has to offer.

To get started, get familiar with these Simple Rules for the Mediterranean Diet:

1. Daily (Eat multiple times per day.)

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables (excluding starchy corn and potatoes)
  • Healthy fats (olive oil)

2. Daily (Eat at least once per day.)

  • Legumes (beans, peas, etc.)
  • Unrefined whole grains (brown rice, steel cut oats, etc.)

3. Weekly (Eat multiple times per week.)

  • Fish (wild)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, etc.)

4. Monthly (Eat 3 to 4 times per month or less.)

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Organic cheese and yogurt

5. Rarely (Eat only on special occasions.)

  1. Saturated fats from red meat and dairy products (besides organic cheese and yogurt)
  2. Refined sugars and sweets
  3. Luncheon/deli meats

Then learn more with our Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan, where you’ll find recipes and useful tips for eating more brain-healthy foods. On your next shopping trip, stock up on these delicious foods so you’ll always have something healthy at hand. Then come back and tell us all about your favorite Mediterranean meals.

[1] JAMA Intern Med. 2015 May 11. [Epub ahead of print]

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UHN Staff

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