Can a Mediterranean Diet Keep Your Brain Healthier?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  March 2, 2018

As the population of older adults in the United States continues to climb, so too does the interest in aging well. From fitness activities to heart health, we’ve tackled a variety of successful aging topics. One topic that is always worth examining is the potential relationship between diet and cognitive health.

Older adults in Ikaria, Greece have some of the lowest rates of dementia in the world. Residents over the age of 85 rarely develop any form of the disease. In fact, there are 75 percent fewer incidences of dementia when compared to people of the same age in the United States.

What type of diet do people in this area follow? 

For 95 percent of them, the answer is a Mediterranean-style diet. It is rich with plant-based foods and low in saturated fats, dairy, and meat.

You don’t have to look far to find the science to back up this way of eating. In fact, some researchers say that adopting a Mediterranean diet might even help slow cognitive decline for people who are already experiencing it.

How to Get Started on a Mediterranean Diet

Making the transition from a Western diet to a plant-based style of eating might feel overwhelming and intimidating at first, but we have a few tips to help:

  • Start small: Begin to gradually add more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet. You are more likely to maintain progress if you don’t give up all of your favorite foods at once. Small steps like adding shredded carrots to your tuna salad at lunch or substituting spiraled zucchini for pasta can get you moving in the right direction. As can trading your vegetable oil for olive or grapeseed oil when you cook.
  • Fish, not red meat: You can also start the transition by swapping red meat out in favor of fish once or twice a week. Then, gradually begin switching over to a diet that is largely free from red meat. Sites like Eating Well and Prevention have quick and tasty fish recipes you can experiment with.
  • Snack time: Another easy step you can take is to modify your snacks. Create “snack packs” you can reach for in lieu of chips, dip, and sweets. Suggestions to stock up on include vegetables and hummus, frozen grapes, whole grain crackers, a handful of nuts, or homemade trail mix.
  • Use a meal planner: You might also find it easier to adopt a Mediterranean eating plan if you take advantage of an online meal planner. Forks Over Knives has a free version you can try that does everything from creating quick and easy plant-based menus to generating a grocery shopping list.

Healthy Dining at Sunrise                                   

The culinary teams at Sunrise communities are experts at creating meals that are both nutritious and delicious. We also offer fresh fruit and healthy snacks all day long in our community bistros. Contact us to set up a time to visit for dinner at a Sunrise community near you!