Time and time again we hear that a “healthy diet” will lead to a longer, stronger life. But what does that really mean? Which diet is better than another, and how is a senior supposed to know? Sometimes, a prescribed diet simply isn’t conducive to what a person wants to eat, so eating healthier is that much more difficult. The answer can be found in a series of studies, such as one conducted by Dr. Yian Gu at Columbia University in New York City, has concluded that a Mediterranean diet can do more than a little good for the brains of people over 65.
Eating foods from a “Mediterranean” diet appears to help the senior brain stay in good shape. One of the most obvious positive effects of this diet is the strong defense against brain atrophy, or shrinkage. The researchers found that total brain volume, as well as total gray and white matter volume, were larger than those who did not adhere to this diet.
Fish is the primary component of the Mediterranean diet. Researchers found that eating 3 to 5 ounces of fish weekly is ideal. This is in combination with not eating more than 3 and a half ounces of meat each day, will also protects the brain from shrinkage. The higher the fish and the lower the daily meat intake intake is key.
The diet also encourages eating vegetables and legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils. Fruits and cereals are also recommended, and monounsaturated fats like olive oil. Saturated fats should be kept to a minimum. However, moderate amounts of alcohol are also important. No one said this diet couldn’t be fun.
It should be stated that this study, as well as others like it, do not claim to find a direct causal relationship between the Mediterranean diet and increased brain health. Rather, there is a definite association found between the two. Each of the elderly participants in the study had MRI scans done in order to precisely record the effects the diet had on their brains.
While studies are still being conducted and more research is being recorded, the conclusions of Gu and her team are the strongest evidence to date that this way of eating, combined with exercise, will promote brain health.
Seniors shouldn’t resign themselves to their minds becoming duller over time. There is much to be done, and eaten, to keep those minds sharp. A small dose of exercise each day, such as walking around the neighborhood for 15-30 minutes, can stimulate blood flow and the brain itself. With this Mediterranean diet, the gears in senior’s heads can stay well oiled for a long time to come.