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More Evidence That the Mediterranean Diet Is Good for the Brain

A Mediterranean antipasti on a garden table
Westend61/Getty Images

Amid recent heated discussions over whether Americans should be eating less beef, a new study finds that the vegetable- and fish-heavy Mediterranean diet may help protect the brain against dementia.

The Mediterranean eating plan, which has been studied for its health benefits since the 1950s, is light on red meat and dairy products and heavy on vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts and fish. In the study, published May 5 in the journal Neurology, eating this way was linked to higher scores on memory tests, less brain shrinkage and less buildup of two proteins associated with dementia.

The study comes at a moment when the environmental effects of beef consumption have been a hot issue in the news.

Check out these foods, recipes, videos and more in our Superfoods to Support the Brain package to help create your own “super-diet.”

Editors of the popular online recipe site Epicurious recently announced that it no longer would be adding any new beef recipes to the site, calling beef “one of the world’s worst climate offenders” because of the high amount of greenhouse gas emissions linked to raising cattle. In reaction, some accused the site of “canceling beef,” and others worried that the decision might negatively affect small-scale beef producers.

Although Americans may still love their burgers, overall beef consumption in the U.S. has declined since the a peak in the 1970s, with a slight increase over the past five years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

To be clear, the Mediterranean diet doesn’t ban beef; it just encourages eating only small amounts and only occasionally.

The regimen emphasizes meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fish — all of which have been linked in studies to lower risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as to better brain health as we age.

For more on this study, plus three delicious recipes to get you started in a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, check out the full article, How the Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Dementia, in Staying Sharp.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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