The list of things that change as a person ages is a lengthy one, but right at the top of the list are the changes that affect your physical and mental wellbeing.
However, there are nutritional habits you can easily implement that will help slow and improve some of these changes that cause nutrient deficiencies in many people. These deficiencies may not be life-threatening, but they absolutely affect the body and your quality of life.
What is the best diet for seniors? What foods will help keep you physically and mentally strong for many more years to come? For National Mediterranean Diet Month, we will explore these questions and more, starting with how the Mediterranean Diet can be a simple key to keeping your body as young as possible for as long as possible.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Dietary Guidelines recommended the Mediterranean Diet as one of the most healthy eating plans. This diet consists of foods commonly consumed in the Mediterranean region, which all work together to promote health and prevent chronic disease.
Simply put, this diet consists of a lot of vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains while staying away from dairy and red meat as much as possible.
While this diet plan is healthy for individuals at any age, it is considered one of the best diets for seniors. One of its many benefits is that it’s good for cardiovascular health. A recent study showed older adults who adhered more closely to the diet had better overall cardiovascular health. The study also showed a reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease.
What Is the MIND Diet?
The MIND Diet plan is another eating plan to consider if you’re aging because of its focus on reducing neurological decline in seniors through nutrition. This diet combines aspects of the Mediterranean diet with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. The result is known as the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND).
In other words, it takes foods from both diet plans that promote brain health to create a diet plan that has been scientifically proven to not only lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several other diseases but also improve brain function and prevent dementia.
Best Foods to Eat
Whether you’re looking for improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of diabetes, or for prevention of neurological diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, here are the top 10 foods you can eat on the MIND Diet that can help you do all of the above.
- Green, Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens contain nutrients linked to brain health, and just one serving a day can help slow brain aging. Look to add kale, collards, spinach, or lettuce to your diet plan whenever you can, aiming for at least six servings a week.
- All Vegetables
There was a good reason your mom told you to eat your vegetables: they’re packed with nutrients that help fix many problems we encounter when we age. Try to eat an additional vegetable at least once a day, staying away from starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn as much as possible.
The Mediterranean Diet preaches the importance of making fruit a part of your regular diet, but berries have been specifically shown to improve brain function. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries all have antioxidants to help you in other ways as well.
Grab a handful of nuts at least five or more times a week to get enough Vitamin E to protect your brain. Opt for dry-roasted or raw and unsalted nuts without sweeteners or oils.
- Olive Oil
Swap out the butter or margarine for olive oil — a Mediterranean staple.
- Whole Grains
You should aim for at least three servings of whole grains every day. These can take the form of oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-wheat bread.
The MIND diet recommends at least one serving of fish a week. This fish should be baked or grilled, never fried. Fish to include in your plan include salmon, tilapia, cod, or tuna.
- Beans & Legumes
The rule above about “starchy” vegetables doesn’t apply when it comes to beans and legumes. In fact, you should include at least three servings a week of beans & legumes for optimal brain health. These servings can include beans such as black, pinto, cannellini, garbanzo, or kidney, amongst others. Not a bean fan? Don’t forget that hummus is made of chickpeas!
You should aim for at least two servings of chicken or poultry a week on the MIND diet. Remember that both can be excellent substitutes for red meat in dishes like chili and tacos.
Yes, you read that title correctly. Wine. Red and white wines have proven beneficial to brain health, but red wine, especially as it contains the compound resveratrol, helps protect against Alzheimer’s. Don’t read this as a call to overindulge, however. You should limit your intake to one serving a day.
Whether you’re looking to slow down the physical signs of aging or prevent some of the more common diseases that afflict seniors, the best place to start is with your nutrition. In honor of National Mediterranean Diet Month this month, look for ways to put more of the above best foods into your diet for maximum overall physical and mental health.