The Mediterranean Diet
By Jeffrey Farbman, M.D. and Sherrie All, Ph.D.
Studies have shown that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fish and poultry, fruit, nuts and olive oil appears to be protective against the development of cognitive deficits. Such a dietary pattern is commonly referred to as the Mediterranean diet as it is based on the dietary patterns common in Greece and Southern Italy in the nineteen sixties.
The Mediterranean diet was first brought to world attention by Dr. Ancel Keys in the mid-1940's. It wasn't popularized, though, until approximately fifty years later by Harvard University's Dr. Walter Willett.
In the Mediterranean diet, about 30% of calories come from fats (as compared to approximately 40% in the typical American diet), and 90% of those fats are said to be unsaturated (or "good fats"). Olive oil, which is consumed every day, is the major source of dietary fat and should be used for cooking and dressings in place of other types of oil or butter.
The major source of dietary protein in the Mediterranean diet is from plants instead of from animals. This is helpful because it lowers the amount of saturated fat, which is common in animal fat.
Leafy green vegetables, legumes (such as beans, peas and chickpeas), whole grain breads and pastas, unrefined cereals and fresh fruit are heavily represented in the Mediterranean diet and are consumed daily.
Animal protein in the form of fish, poultry, cheese, and yogurt are eaten in moderate amounts, while red meats are consumed in only small amounts. Fish, seafood and eggs are to be eaten two to three times per week, poultry once weekly and red meats once or twice per month.
Fresh and dried fruits are eaten on a daily basis as desserts and snacks.
Low to moderate amounts of red wine are also a feature of this dietary pattern. (Needless to say, alcohol consumption should never be excessive and should be avoided completely in pregnancy and when it would cause other health problems.)
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