If you want to be your brightest self in 2022, there are things you can do to help your brain function the best it can. While some habits, like excessive drinking or over-caffeinating, could be taking a toll on your mind, others, such as getting enough exercise and keeping to a healthy sleep schedule, can help keep your brain sharp. The foods you eat can also make a real difference. Now, new research suggests that sticking to the Mediterranean diet can help protect against cognitive decline.
In the study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at a group of more than 900 adults facing cognitive decline over a period of about three years. They gave each person’s diet a score based on how closely their food choices adhered to the principles of the Mediterranean diet. Comparing this information to measures of cognitive health—specifically, of memory, language, visual perception, and executive functioning—researchers found that adherence to this diet was linked to significantly slower cognitive decline.
In fact, those with a Mediterranean Diet Score that was 10 points higher (on a scale of 0 to 55) saw a 7% slower cognitive decline within a year. Moreover, each additional serving of vegetables, researchers found, slowed the progression of cognitive decline more than 2%.
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The study adds to a mounting body of evidence suggesting this diet’s powerful benefits for your brain. A study of more than 500 older adults published in early 2021 from researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with better thinking skills later in life.
Another early 2021 study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, which followed more than 5,000 participants over two decades, found that following a strict Mediterranean diet can keep the brain almost six years younger. The list of research that comes to the same conclusion goes on and on. Far from a one-time effect observed in a single study, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet on your brain appear to be a consistent finding across different groups of people.
The pillars of the Mediterranean diet include eating monounsaturated fats like nuts or olive oil; getting plenty of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (beneficial compounds found in plants); and consuming only moderate amounts of salt. Additional benefits of the diet include reducing your risk of heart disease, lengthening your life, and helping with fertility, to name just a few.
For some meal ideas to get you started, check out these 15 Best Mediterranean Diet Recipes.