Individuals who live in the Mediterranean region have higher life expectancies than most populations and have a lower rate of individuals with dementia. For this reason, as well as other nutritional factors, the Mediterranean diet is recommended as one way to help lower your risk for dementia.
This particular dietary approach can also have a positive effect on those in the early stages of dementia, helping to noticeably slow progression of the symptoms. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet decreases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
The main component of this dietary approach is eating large portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Most, if not all, meals should be made up of these ingredients, with approximately six or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
In addition, whole grains are very important and should be included in most meals. Fish and seafood are another essential component of this diet, providing protein and omega 3s. Most who follow the Mediterranean diet consume fish or seafood at least twice a week, if not more frequently.
Conversely, red meat should be eaten infrequently, no more than once or twice per month. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, can be eaten in place of red meat. In addition to limiting consumption of red meat, the Mediterranean diet also suggests avoiding butter, salt, high fat dairy products, and refined sugars.
Butter can be easily replaced in most cases by olive oil, which is a large component of this diet. Extra virgin and virgin olive oil are the healthiest types to use, as they contain rich antioxidants. In place of salt, other herbs and spices can be used to add flavor to food as well as to provide additional nutritional benefits.
For example, the spice turmeric, often used in curries, helps prevent the formation of plaques in the brain, which could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. High fat dairy products can easily be replaced by skim or fat free options.
Nuts, seeds, and red wine are also among the suggested components of the Mediterranean diet. Nuts and seeds are high in both fiber and protein, helping to keep a person full for longer and contributing to a balanced diet.
Approximately one handful of nuts per day is recommended, and you should avoid nuts that have been heavily salted or roasted. Some suggestions include walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, almonds, and cashews. Red wine, in moderation, is also recommended a few times a week. See the red wine section for more information on this beverage.