Why the Mediterranean Diet is Key in Old Age
There always seems to be a new fad diet where you cut out various food groups or nutrients, but one diet that seems to have stuck is the Mediterranean diet. That’s because it’s not so much of killjoy kind of diet, and the results are actually proven to help – particularly for older generations. So with it being Nutrition and Hydration Week across the UK, let’s take a look at exactly what the Mediterranean diet is, why it’s good, and how you can adhere to it.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet consists of eating meals with lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, and wholegrain bread, rice, and pasta. You can also eat portions of white meat (like poultry and rabbit), fish, and moderate amounts of dairy.
These foods are seen to have many health benefits on their own, but they all include healthy fats that are proven to improve health.
How is the Mediterranean diet good for you?
One side effect of ageing is that your brain begins to shrink. This is completely normal, but it can cause further health issues as you get older. Understandably, you want to try and maintain your brain mass as much as possible to slow down the effects of ageing!
Well this is precisely what the Mediterranean diet has been proven to do. By choosing fish over meat, and satisfying your appetite with lots of veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains, you’re helping to reduce any loss brain volume. One study of 400 people found that those aged 73 to 76 who stuck to the Mediterranean diet ended up losing less brain mass than those who didn’t.
Research on the Mediterranean diet and its main food groups has also shown that it can reduce the chance of developing troublesome health problems. It may reduce your chances of conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and raised cholesterol – which are all contributing factors of heart disease.
Tips for following the Mediterranean diet
With the many benefits on offer, the Mediterranean diet is not a difficult one to stick to. Here are a few things you can do to make the change to a Mediterranean menu:
1. Switch the Meat for Fish
With fish packed with good fats and omega-3, it’s a great way to make sure you’re getting a good amount of brain food! Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel and a couple of examples. It’s also a great source of protein, giving your muscles the fuel they need to stay strong.
You might also want to try switching to white meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit, etc. These tend to be much leaner than red meat, but still provide a healthy source of protein.
2. Stock Up on your Greens
Vegetables are rich in various vitamins that will help to keep healthy all year round. Making sure you’re eating vegetables with every meal is a good way to maintain your health and energy levels.
It’s recommended that you eat 2 servings of veggies per day, so it might be worth chopping up some carrots, peppers, or celery to bite-sized pieces and keeping them in the fridge for when you get peckish.
3. Try All the Different Whole Grains
Whenever you are doing a food shop, try and keep an eye out for wholegrain food. This is different to whole-wheat as it uses the entire grain. Things like chickpeas, quinoa, oats, and barley count in this category. Popcorn is even an option!
When it comes to bread, pasta, and rice, it’s okay to have whole-wheat, just try to cut out the plain white options that are often refined and less healthy.
4. Make Fruit Your Sweet Treat
Rather than reaching for a slice of cake, sweets, or other confectionaries when your sweet tooth kicks in, try having fruit instead. It contains natural sugars that should satisfy your craving and there are plenty of benefits.
Fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fibre, which will help your digestive system and keep your health up. There are so many different kinds of fruit down the fruit and veg aisle now, maybe try a new one every so often? Blueberries as usually packed full of good stuff!
5. Use Olive Oil
If you’ve been sticking to things like coconut oil and vegetable oil to try and stay healthy, then it might be worth moving to extra-virgin olive oil in later life. This is because olive oil is full of the good fatty acids that can help to regulate cholesterol levels.
Olive oil can also be used in salad dressings, or simply drizzled over some foods to enhance flavour – particularly with fish or chicken! So in recipes where you would usually use butter to bring out some flavours, try a dash of olive oil and see how it tastes.