The Diet Linked to Better Memory and Attention
One of the big factors in brain health is our diet. And it’s also probably one of the big areas most of us could improve on.
It’s not always easy to eat healthy, especially for people living in western societies. We value being busyness. Our entertainment is pervasive and on-demand. Food is convenient, cheap, delicious, and fattening.
But eating healthy counts. Not just to fight obesity, but also from a cognitive standpoint. And a recent review of several studies once again finds that the Mediterranean style diet gives us an edge in maintaining our brain power in key areas.
Searching For Evidence
A healthy body means a healthy mind. They’re two parts of the same system that keep you running.
A study, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, finds that the Mediterranean diet does more than keep your heart healthy. It also slows down cognitive decline with boosts in memory, language, and attention.
The researchers searched through papers published between 2000 to 2015 to identify studies that looked at how the Mediterranean diet affected cognitive abilities over time. While they identified 135 different papers, only 18 met their strict criteria for quality.
After scrutinizing the results of these studies, the researchers were surprised to find how consistent the results were. Roy Hardman, who was the lead author, says:
“The most surprising result was that the positive effects were found in countries around the whole world.”
With papers coming from different countries in different parts of the world, the results were very similar. It was true even for regions outside the Mediterranean.
While it can boost your attention and language skills, they found that biggest effect was for a person’s memory. And it wasn’t just for one type of memory, but included working memory, long term memory, visual memory, and even executive function.
And this didn’t just apply to older generations. The researchers noted two specific studies that met their criteria that focused on young adults. Both of those studies also found improvement in cognition using computerized assessments.
What’s Causing the Brain Boost?
What gives the Mediterranean Diet it’s magic? While the researchers can’t say for sure, they believe it’s because it lowers some of the risk factors that are associated with deteriorating cognitive abilities.
The following is a small list of reasons why scientists think the Med Diet is so good for us:
It may reduce inflammation responses in the body, uses olive oil as the main source of fat, restores vitamin and mineral imbalance, improves cellular metabolism, provides an increase in micronutrients or polyphenols in the body, or even through changing the bacteria in the digestive system.
Further research is needed to know which factors contribute to the benefits.
What’s in the Mediterranean Diet?
If your curious about what’s in the Mediterranean Diet, here’s a quick rundown.
The diet itself is made up of a lot of leafy green vegetables, legumes, beans, seeds, and nuts. The primary meat source is fish and other types of seafood, along with poultry. Also plenty of fresh fruits It’s also doesn’t have a lot of dairy or red meat.
Olive oil – as we mentioned – is the main source of fat. Red wine with a meal is also considered pretty common. In moderation of course.
Not a Fad Diet
I always like to point out that in studies like these the word “diet” doesn’t mean people are eating to lose weight. Those types of diets are usually temporary and, in many cases, ineffective.
A “Diet” in this sense is more of a lifestyle of how one eats. This means over a long period of time, and not necessarily done to look good in a swimsuit.
But other diets, especially ones that include healthy amounts of vegetables, seem to help us maintain brain function. Some studies even say it can increase happiness. But vegetables are something that people in western societies are lacking in their diets.
But if you want to keep your brain in top condition, and help it stay there, the Mediterranean Diet is consistently one of the best.