The human brain is amazing. It has 100 billion neurons, aka nerve cells, and it consumes 20% of the body’s total energy, which is significant given its size.1 In order for the brain to keep firing on all cylinders, it requires the right fuel to function properly. And that fuel comes from food. According to a recent study, the type of fuel you feed your brain can make a significant difference.
The study was published in 2023 in the journal BMC Medicine and featured information from more than 60,000 people in the United Kingdom.2 The researchers found that the people who ate a Mediterranean Diet had better brain function than the people who did not eat a Mediterranean Diet. This is consistent with previous research also showing that the Mediterranean Diet may help support brain function.3
One of the reasons the Mediterranean Diet is so good for the brain is because it emphasizes healthy fats, specifically extra-virgin olive oil, which have been shown to benefit brain health.4 The diet also includes nuts and fish, which are great sources of healthy fats. In addition, the Mediterranean diet also supports healthy inflammation, which may help with brain function.5
In a nutshell, the Mediterranean Diet is a plant-based, whole foods diet that focuses on green leafy vegetables, nuts, fresh fruits, whole grains, and olive oil.6 Animal protein is eaten in smaller quantities and fish is the preferred protein source. If red meat is eaten, it’s more of a side dish versus a main part of the meal.
Here are some additional characteristics of the Mediterranean style of eating:7
Each meal includes colorful fruits and vegetables.
There is less salt and more herbs, spices, garlic, and onions.
There is an emphasis on fresh locally grown foods.
Processed foods are reduced or avoided completely.
The human brain is very active. Like a sponge, it soaks up valuable nutrients and uses food as fuel to keep it functioning at peak capacity. And, as research shows, the Mediterranean Diet is a great way to fuel the brain.
Want to know another good thing for your mind? Spending time outdoors. Here are four reasons why the outdoors are good for you. For more tips on nutrition, staying healthy and motherhood follow us on Instagram at @kalvitamins!
1 Herculano-Houzel S. The remarkable, yet not extraordinary, human brain as a scaled-up primate brain and its associated cost. PNAS. 2012;109. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1201895109
2 Shannon OM, Ranson JM, Gregory S, et al. Mediterranean diet adherence is associated with lower dementia risk, independent of genetic predisposition: findings from the UK Biobank prospective cohort study. BMC Medicine. 2023;81(2023). https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-023-02772-3
3 Klimova B, Novotny M, Schlegel P, Valis M. The effect of Mediterranean Diet on cognitive functions in the elderly population. Nutrients. 2021;13(6):2067. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8235742/
4 Lauretti E, Nenov M, Dincer O, et al. Extra virgin olive oil improves synaptic activity, short-term plasticity, memory, and neuropathology in a tauopathy model. Aging Cell. 2020;19(1). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acel.13076
5 Itsiopoulos C, Mayr HL, Thomas CJ. The anti-inflammatory effects of a Mediterranean diet: a review. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2022;25(6):415-422. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36039924/
6 Rishor-Olney CR, Hinson MR. Mediterranean Diet. StatPearls. 2022;March 26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557733/#_NBK557733_pubdet_
7 Guasch-Ferre M, Willett WC. The Mediterranean diet and health: a comprehensive overview. Journal of Internal Medicine. 2021;290(3). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/joim.13333