mediterranean diet and brain powermediterranean diet and brain powerA Mediterranean diet combined with an increase in nuts and olive oil can help protect the brain from cognitive decline due to aging. (Photo: SMarina/Shutterstock)

Can a diet boost your brain power?

New study shows how Mediterranean foods like nuts and olive oil may ward off cognitive decline.

The Mediterranean diet just gave us all another reason to rethink our eating habits.

The popular food regimen, with a focus on vegetables, protein-packed fish, olive oil, nuts, fruits and low amounts of meat and dairy, is not only wonderful for hearts and waistlines, but also for the very thing you're using to read this sentence.

An intensive, four-year study discovered that the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with a small increase in the daily consumption of nuts and olive oil, can help protect the brain from the damaging effects of aging. This is a potentially crucial weapon in the difficult fight against cognitive decline, dementia and devastating diseases such as Alzheimer's.

mediterranean diet and brain powerMediterranean yum: This healthy beetroot pizza includes pine nuts, rosemary and small amounts of feta cheese. (Photo: Yulia von Eisenstein/Shutterstock)

The study involved 447 cognitively healthy participants, ages 55 to 80 years old, who were divided into three groups. Two groups were told to follow a Mediterranean diet and asked to increase their consumption of extra virgin olive oil (to 5 tablespoons per day) or increase their consumption of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds). The third group was told to simply follow a low-fat diet.

At the end of the clinical trial, the researchers found that the nuts and olive oil groups outperformed the control group on both memory tests and skills requiring quick thinking. Dr. Emilio Ros, who led the study at the Hospital Clinic at the University of Barcelona in Spain, believes this force field for cognitive function likely comes from the abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents found in the supplemental foods.

mediterranean diet foodAdding some extra virgin olive oil and nuts to your vegetables is not only delicious, but also good for your brain. (Photo: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

While it's not recommended that you start doing shots of olive oil and gorging on walnuts, supplementing these superfoods with a diet rich in vegetables and low in meat and dairy is likely a great place to start.

If all this food for thought has you wanting to take action right away, the fine team here at From The Grapevine has already compiled a complete Mediterranean menu to help you get started. Want even more? Our resident chefs Miriam Kresh and Sarah F. Berkowitz have hundreds of tasty recipes in our Israeli kitchen.

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