It’s been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses — and the latest study about the Mediterranean diet shows that it may also protect the brain: Researchers tracked the eating habits of 1,393 people for nearly five years and found that those who most closely followed the diet had a 28 percent lower risk of mental decline. And those who already had memory problems had a 48 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s
But do you know what Mediterranean eating really involves? It’s not all pizza, lasagna and souvlaki, points out the New York Times health reporter, Tara Parker-Pope. She offers some basic guidelines, along with a handy food pyramid from the Greek Health Ministry:
- The diet is plant-based in nature, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and olive oil. Eggs, dairy, poultry and fish are consumed regularly, but the portions are smaller than typically consumed in a Western diet.
- Meat makes only an occasional appearance, and it’s usually added in small amounts to make sauces, beans and pasta dishes more flavorful….If you are packing your diet with produce, nuts, legumes and whole grains, you won’t have a lot of room left on your plate for big servings of meat anyway.
- Refined sugar and flour and butter and fats other than olive oil are consumed rarely, if at all.
- “One of the basic tenets is the enjoyment of food, and respect and pleasure of food. When you’re in the Mediterranean, your meals are three hours and you savor your food.”