Ingredients of a Mediterranean diet

Eat Mediterranean! Links between brain health and food revealed

It's the best way of eating for brain health

Nutritionist Dalbinder Bains, who ran a nutrition course for clients at The Brain Charity, shares her advice in this guest blog.

The average adult brain is the size of a medium cauliflower and contains around 100 billion cells. It is made up of 60% fat – making it the fattiest organ in the human body.

The brain is an extremely active organ, which demands a high percentage of our overall daily energy requirements. An adult brain accounts for just 2% of total body weight, yet receives 20% of our blood supply and uses 20% of our total calorie intake. For babies and children, this percentage is much higher.

The negative links between obesity and brain health are also well-known. Last year the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease revealed that as a person’s weight goes up, all regions of the brain go down in blood flow – directly linking obesity with brain dysfunction.

‘We are what we eat’ said the philosopher Feuerbach. It is clear the quality of the food we eat affects our brain, body and mind. So what should we eat, when should we eat it, and where should we start?

The first place to start is to ensure a good foundation of ‘real food’ – provided by the Mediterranean diet. It’s been proven to be one of the best diets to support brain health and overall wellbeing due to being high in Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and is based around plant foods.

The basics of the Mediterranean diet are:

  • Eat: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, lentils, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Eat in moderation: poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt.
  • Eat only rarely: red meat.

Fat intake under the Mediterranean diet is moderately high (up to 35% to 40% of total calories) but consists predominately of monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, nuts and seeds,) as opposed to polyunsaturated (e.g. canola oil) and saturated (e.g. animal) fats.

Tips on changing to a Mediterranean diet to support your brain health:

  • Replace animal fats like butter with extra virgin olive oil
  • Reduce red meat intake and eat more fish, lean poultry and vegetarian meals
  • Grill meat, fish and poultry rather than frying
  • Eat unsalted raw almonds and walnuts instead of crisps, pretzels and biscuits
  • Replace cream with yoghurt in sauces, casseroles and soups
  • Leave a minimum of 12 hours between your last meal and breakfast to allow the body to rest. If you eat breakfast at 8am, your last meal should be no later than 8pm.

Categories: Advice, Guest blogs

Published: 15 May 2021