I tried a science-backed eating plan tied to a better memory and longer life — and never felt like I was ‘dieting’

erin brodwin eating avocadoErin Brodwin / Business Insider

 

I tried the Mediterranean Diet, a healthy whole foods meal plan based around vegetables, fish, healthy fats like those from olive oil and avocados. The plan has been linked with benefits that range from a reduced risk of disease to a healthier mind. I learned a lot while trying the regimen, and I’d like to stick with it for a long time.

You could say I’ve been around the diet block. I’ve been vegan, restricted my eating to an 8-hour window as part of an intermittent fast, and given ketogenic and vegetarian meal plans a spin — all in an attempt to give myself more energy, feel healthier, and power through the various activities I enjoy, like yoga, hiking, and rock climbing. The one regimen I’ve never tried, however, is the one I write about the most: the Mediterranean Diet.

The plan’s cornerstones are vegetables, fish, olive oil, beans, nuts, and whole grains; items like processed foods, red meat, poultry, and dairy get slashed.

With studies suggesting that people who eat this way have a reduced risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer, it’s no surprise that dietitians and clinicians say the approach is a great way to fuel the body.

Leafy greens provide key vitamins and minerals that are needed for healthy skin, hair, and nails; whole grains support good digestion; fish and nuts provide protein to maintain muscle and keep energy levels steady.

The Mediterranean Diet is also rich in several ingredients that may be critical to a healthy mind.

Two types of healthy fat — monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids — are staples of the plan, as well as several antioxidants found in berries and dark chocolate. Previous studies have found a link between both of these ingredients and a reduced risk of dementia as well as higher cognitive performance. Research has also suggested that two other Mediterranean ingredients — leafy greens and berries — could help protect against a phenomenon called neurodegeneration which often characterizes diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Still, as I’m a sample size of just one person rather than the hundreds or thousands typically required for scientific research, it’s worth taking my findings with a grain of salt. That said, I learned a ton on the plan. Here’s a glimpse.

When I started the Mediterranean diet, I assumed it wouldn’t involve that many dramatic changes to my existing habits. I love crunchy veggies like broccoli and put avocados on basically anything I can. But I also eat a lot of quick, ready-made items full of ingredients shunned on the Mediterranean plan, like white rice. Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

One of my favorite go-to meals at the end of a busy day is Trader Joe’s frozen Chicken Tikka Masala dinners. With a big helping of white rice and chicken as the main ingredients, however, it’s not very Mediterranean-friendly.

So I hit the grocery store for some basics. The supermarket near me didn’t have much of what I wanted at low prices, so I ended up at Trader Joe’s for most of it. I bought olive oil, frozen and fresh fruits and veggies (depending on what was on sale), several kinds of frozen fish (half the price of fresh), canned chickpeas, lemons, Greek yogurt, whole grain bread, brown rice, and roasted nuts. Erin Brodwin / Business Insider What I love about the Mediterranean diet is that it includes many full-fat, delicious items that former diet fads have shunned, like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and fatty kinds of fish like salmon. You can eat eggs in moderation on the plan too. Timolina/Shutterstock See the rest of the story at Business Insider

See Also:

16 simple tricks people around the world use to avoid gaining weightCoffee will now come with a cancer warning in California. Here’s why the state puts warnings on more than 1,000 foods, places, and chemicals.A new health startup boldly claims to reverse diabetes without drugs, and Silicon Valley’s favorite diet is a big part of it

SEE ALSO: The best ways to lose weight and keep it off, according to science

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