The Mediterranean diet has no shortage of accolades. It’s repeatedly recognized for its health benefits and positive effects on aging, and now a new study is showing it might improve memory and lower the risk for dementia.
Those are some pretty significant benefits, for sure. But what if you’re not interested in a Mediterranean diet? For example, I have a large extended family that’s very diverse, and not one of them comes from the Mediterranean region. It seems like we’ve got the rest of the world covered, though.
No one’s going to abandon their native diet if they don’t have to, while so much of the news suggests that eating “Mediterranean style” foods is the only way to reap any health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet is the sum of several parts. Those parts include nutrient-dense plant-based foods, fish, some dairy, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats (generally from olive oil).
Those foods, and many other nutrient-dense options, are grown throughout the world. Most regions spanning the globe have rich nutritional offerings and healthful native diets.
You don’t have to abandon who you are or your native dishes to reap the benefits of a healthy diet.
The common denominator for diet-related health problems is processed and refined foods. Limit intake of that stuff and build your diet around a variety of natural foods that you like, and you will likely reduce your risk for illness and enjoy better health.
Looking at this new study on the Mediterranean diet, we can see that an eating plan rich in fish, leafy green vegetables, healthy fats—and low in processed foods—can improve memory and reduce biomarkers of Alzheimer’s.
One of the major findings in the study was that the participants who most closely adhered to a healthy eating style were less likely to develop amyloid and tau protein plaques and tangles, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
Indeed, this study looked specifically at the Mediterranean diet. But when asked about why this specific diet works, experts suggest that it has little do with the specific foods it includes, but rather the nutrients it features.
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants that help protect cells. Healthy monounsaturated fats, which are found in a variety of foods, help improve cholesterol profiles, while omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish, are associated with several benefits. Fiber is also an important part of a healthy diet.
So, if you’re looking to improve memory and enjoy some health benefits, it’s not so much about what your diet is called, but more about the nutritious foods—that can be found almost anywhere on earth—that make it up.