Would you eat a green smoothie daily if you thought it would reduce your chances of getting dementia? A new study reveals that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, and whole grains could do just that. Currently, over 55 million people are living with dementia, and someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds.
According to a study published in the medical journal BMC Medicine, following a Mediterranean diet reduces a person's risk of dementia by one-quarter, regardless of whether they carry the genes.
The study looked at a group of 60,289 people, over a span of nine years, who were part of the UK Biobank Study. Participants aged 40 through 69 used questionnaires to record how strictly they followed the Mediterranean diet, and afterward, 882 were found to have dementia. Those with higher adherence to the diet had less occurrence of dementia. This study underlines how important diet is in dementia and Alzheimer's prevention.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia is the umbrella term used to describe a wide range of symptoms, including memory loss, poor judgment, decreased focus, and changes in language and behavior. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are many other types and causes of dementia.
Alzheimer's prevention is a global issue, as more than six million Americans live with the disease leading to significant social and economic burdens. As the size of the U.S. population over age 65 grows, so do the numbers of people with dementia and Alzheimer's. It is estimated that by 2050 that number may increase to 12.7 million. Luckily there are some ways we can reduce our chances of developing this debilitating disease.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating patterns of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, and Italy. This diet typically emphasizes whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, healthy fats like olive oil and fatty fish, and moderate amounts of lean protein.
Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Legumes and nuts
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread
- Fish, shellfish, and poultry
- Extra virgin olive oil as your healthy fat
- Cheese and yogurt in moderation
- Red wine with meals
- Red meat and sweets only occasionally
Eating a wide variety of food ensures you get the nutrient blend you need to support your health. Additionally, fatty fish like herring and sardines can help fight inflammation and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Tips for Eating the Mediterranean Way
Incorporating a few simple ingredients into your diet can be a great way to start eating the Mediterranean way. Add in fresh vegetables whenever you can. Incorporate them into your breakfast with a green smoothie or a quiche cup loaded with broccoli. Have a salad for lunch, pack sliced peppers and carrots in your lunchbox, or have an apple with peanut butter in the afternoon.
Kristen Wood, from MOON and spoon and yum, says, "If you're stuck on ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, try to make it fun and extra flavorful. Use lots of herbs and spices, olive oil, a little crumbled feta cheese, and healthy condiments like tzatziki and harissa to add a punch of flavor and nutrition."
Fruit is a great way to satisfy your cravings for sweets and berries. Serve fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries as a dessert with a drizzle of melted chocolate. Add berries to your green smoothies in the morning for added sweetness. Try Greek yogurt with berries, nuts, and cinnamon for an afternoon snack.
Try to reduce your consumption of red meat by having fish or shellfish three times per week. Add beans, lentils, and legumes to replace some of the protein in red meat.
Alex Caspero MA, RD, Plant-Based Dietitian at Delish Knowledge, suggests, "Think beyond the lentil soup and black bean burger and lean into the many cultures around the world where beans and legumes play a starting role. Think lentil curry, beans and rice, dal, hummus, white bean salads, red beans, and rice; these are all examples of traditional recipes where pulses take a starring role and meat is either absent or present in very small amounts. Chickpeas tossed with olive oil and seasonings are a great stand-in for grilled chicken in salads, and cooked lentils make for a heart-healthy bolognese or stew."
Of course, there are items that we need to remove from our diets, and those are processed foods, sodas, and sweets. If you are addicted to soda, try switching to carbonated flavored water or adding fruit to still water. Find an alternative to salty processed snacks by making popcorn or eating whole-grain crackers with peanut butter. Try almonds, cashews, or pistachios in the shell for a satisfying crunchy snack.
No one diet can prevent dementia, but the Mediterranean diet offers a promising approach to promoting cognitive health and reducing the risk of memory problems. Its focus on nutrient-dense foods, high-quality fats, fruits, and vegetables can improve brain function and overall well-being. Lucky for us, it is a relatively simple and enjoyable way to eat. Now grab an apple, and let's do this!