- A diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats is increasingly being recognized as the healthiest for your brain and body.
- This diet is known by many different names – from “plant-based” to “Mediterranean” – and can come in a range of variations. But at its core, it is focused on veggies, protein, and healthy fats.
- US News and World Report recently ranked the Mediterranean diet as the best to follow in the year ahead.
In a world dominated by celebrity fad diets, many people don’t believe there’s a single best diet for your health.
But a growing body of research suggests that a meal plan focusing on vegetables, protein, and healthy fats has key benefits for losing weight, keeping your mind sharp, and protecting your heart and brain as you age.
This type of eating regimen is called by many names and comes in different iterations, from “plant-based” to “Mediterranean.” Some people on the diet eat eggs and dairy, meat and fish, or all of the above; others are vegetarian and abstain from meat and animal products altogether.
At its core, however, most of these meal plans are very similar and have two main characteristics: they are rich in vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats and low in heavily processed foods and refined carbohydrates like white bread.
In its annual diet ranking, US News and World Report ranked the Mediterranean diet as the best one to follow in 2019. (The plan was ranked at the top last year, too.)
Evidence supporting that recommendation can be found in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of Gerontology, in which scientists analyzed six recent studies on the Mediterranean diet and found that the eating regimen is closely linked with a variety of beneficial outcomes. Positive impacts include healthy aging, better mobility, a lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease, and improved cognitive functioning.
Eating as you live on the coast of Naples or Athens sounds intuitively appealing. Meals could include fresh fish, vegetables drizzled in olive oil, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
Recent research suggests that diets like these, which are also low in processed foods and red meat, are great for your brain and body – both in the near-term and into older age.
To keep your energy levels up and help you feel healthy in the long term, your diet needs to feed more than your stomach. It has to satiate your muscles, which crave protein; your digestive system, which runs best with fiber; and your tissues and bones, which work optimally when they’re getting vitamins from food.
A plant-based diet’s combination of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats accomplishes that goal. But plant-based diets aren’t just good for the body – they have key benefits for the mind as well.
So if your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier or lose weight, the Mediterranean plan is worth a try. It may not even feel like you’re dieting at all.