Choose a Mediterranean style diet to stay healthy as you age. According to Oldways, a nonprofit organization that evaluates dietary patterns worldwide, research shows this type of eating slows brain aging and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, macular degeneration and periodontal disease.
Interest in Mediterranean foods began with the Seven Countries study completed shortly after World War II. It examined the health of almost 13,000 middle-age men in the United States, Japan, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, and then-Yugoslavia. The results clearly showed that people who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and fish were the healthiest and had the lowest rates of heart disease and stroke, says Oldways.
The health of residents in Crete, Greece, in particular, exceeded that of U.S. residents in the study; researchers attributed this to their diet. With subsequent research came an understanding that a Mediterranean type diet – higher in (good) fats and lower in red meat and refined carbohydrates, like muffins, cookies, and white bread – could promote lifelong good health.
Scientists and public health officials seem to agree, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Gone is advice to follow a low-fat diet. Instead, Americans are advised to center their diet on basic healthy foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seafood, with some good fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and vegetable oils) included – advice remarkably similar to what was discovered half a century ago and what Oldways has been preaching for over a decade.
According to the Dietary Guidelines, we are eating too many solid fats, sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat, much of it from packaged foods, and this is affecting the health of our nation. We should limit grain-based desserts, breads and sugary drinks and eat wholesome foods with omega-3’s from good fats. This boosts our intake of beneficial nutrients that help keep cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar levels normal.