For the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Mediterranean diet as the #1 best diet overall, topping a list of 35 different diet plans designed to promote health. The Mediterranean diet also took the top spot in four other lists: Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Diets for Diabetes and Best Plant-Based Diets.
I know the benefits of the Mediterranean diet well having cooked this way for years both for myself and my family, as well as for assisted living residents who reside in communities managed by my company, Senior Living Residences. A decade ago we launched our Brain Healthy Cooking Program, which is based on the Mediterranean diet, well before all the large scale studies documenting its many health benefits were published, along with the subsequent large scale media attention.
In the last 10 years since we embraced the Mediterranean diet, it has gained in popularity year after year. And now for the last three years, it has topped the list of all healthful diets. Why? Because it’s easy to follow! There are no gimmicks; it’s not a fad.
Basic Principles of the Mediterranean Diet
- Eat more vegetables (dark leafy greens are the best)
- Eat a variety of fruits (dark berries are great)
- Eat less red meat. Concerned about protein? Add legumes into your diet for healthful plant-based protein
- Have fish and/or other seafood at least 2 times weekly
- Reduce sugar (refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup)
- Reduce saturated fat, but add healthy omega 3 fats that are found in fish, avocados and olive oil (Check out Oldways’ guide to Healthy Fats)
- Consume a handful of nuts every day (almonds and walnuts are at the top of the nut list)
- Add whole grains into your daily regimen
- And a quick tip: use tasty spices to cut back on salt
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been scientifically proven to provide the body with potent disease-fighting antioxidants and nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. It promotes heart health and is great for people managing diabetes. It has been proven to reduce the chance of stroke. One study even says the diet is linked with a lower risk of hearing loss.
But, for us at Senior Living Residences, the most compelling reason we decided to implement the Mediterranean diet for older adults living in our assisted living communities is that it promotes brain health. In fact, back in 2009 when we were test piloting our Brain Healthy Cooking Program, what we were doing was affirmed by the most comprehensive study done to date describing a direct connection between diet and cognitive health. Researchers found that individuals who adhered to a Mediterranean Diet had a 32-40% decreased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Imagine being able to protect your cognitive health and memory! This diet is like a magic bullet.
I think if everyone really knew we could make such a difference in our own lives by staving off potential dementia and memory loss, not to mention all the other known health benefits, we would all be eating Mediterrean style. Oldways, an organization that my company is affiliated with that promotes the Mediterranean diet and other healthful traditional ways of eating, calls this diet “Mediterranean Magic”. I couldn’t agree more.
Want to Learn More about the Mediterranean Diet?
Read about the Mediterranean Diet basics on BrainHealthyCooking.com
Download easy to cook recipes that my chefs and I have created. Mediterranean cooking is not only healthy, the food is delicious!