Should you follow your heart or your head? When it comes to what you put on your plate, the answer is to follow the Mediterranean diet and both your heart and your head will thank you. In the spirit of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June, the James Family Heart Center at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) wants you to know the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is linked to better memory. Just remember: What’s good for your heart is good for your head.
Getting Back to Basics
The Mediterranean diet refers to a diet rich in plant foods and low in animal products. Here is a quick overview of the Mediterranean diet for beginners:
- Eat mostly vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, fish, seafood and potatoes.
- Limit your consumption of eggs, dairy products and poultry.
- Significantly reduce red meat consumption.
- Cook using extra virgin olive oil, spices and herbs.
- Eliminate highly processed foods, refined oils and grains, and added sugars.
As a general rule, if your food comes from the garden or the sea, you’re on the right track. It is best to avoid packaged foods, as they are often processed. Before purchasing a packaged product, carefully read the package label so you know its exact contents.
Heart and Brain Healthy
Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, dietitians and physicians recommend the Mediterranean diet, and variations of it, for many reasons. In addition to assisting with the prevention of cardiovascular disease, following a plant-based diet may help reduce your risk of dementia. While research continues, some studies have shown improved attention, better memory and less cognitive decline.
Put it Into Practice
Need some ideas on how to put the Mediterranean diet into practice? YRMC’s online nutrition program, YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, has great video tutorials and recipes to start you on the path to better heart and brain health.
Rita Carey Rubin, MS, RD, CDE – host of YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen – is a YRMC Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and trained chef. She demonstrates a Mediterranean diet meal plan that keeps variety and flavor in your food without added sugars and processed nonsense. Here are a few Mediterranean diet friendly Your Healthy Kitchen recipes to get you cooking:
- Power Up Your Plate with Purple Fruits and Vegetables
- Roasted, Seasoned Nuts and Seeds: A Perfect Go-To Snack
- Beans: Good for Your Heart and Your Health
- Hearty, Healthy, Whole Grain Risotto
Live the Mediterranean lifestyle and share these recipes with your loved ones. After all, food and life are meant to be enjoyed.