Wellness Wednesday – 5/12/21
If I were to tell you that you can improve your brain health, you may roll your eyes and think: here she goes again with the mindfulness and meditation. Fear not, I’ll keep the figurative mental health discussion on the back burner this week (but mindfulness is still important!) We’re still talking about your brain, but this time it’s about how food plays a huge role in its proper functioning. This weekend, I found a newly published study discussing the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (which prompted this week’s topic.) The study emphasized the fact that when it comes to your brain, you quite literally are what you eat. So this week, let’s talk cultural diets, the foods responsible for brain power and why you should at least try to eat more fish.
The article in question is this one from CNN which describes recent study findings suggesting that a Mediterranean diet may prevent memory loss and lower your risk for dementia. Author Sandee LaMotte notes that the diet “contains nutrients that are known to enhance longevity” and “[interferes] with the buildup of two proteins, amyloid and tau, into the plaques and tangles that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.” The article quotes Dr. Richard Isaacson, the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic director at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, who says “For every point of higher compliance with the diet, people had one extra year less of brain aging. That is striking. Most people are unaware that it’s possible to take control of your brain health, yet this study shows us just that.”
According to the article, following the Mediterranean diet is less complicated than you’d expect: “plant-based cooking, with the majority of each meal focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds, with a few nuts and a heavy emphasis on extra-virgin olive oil. Fats other than olive oil, such as butter, are consumed rarely, if at all.” Additionally, the diet omits refined sugar and flour, and things like eggs, dairy and poultry are used sparingly. Meat is eaten rarely unless it’s seafood, which is a staple.
For helpful tips on how to get started on the Mediterranean diet, check out this article from The Mediterranean Dish, which not only provides advice for beginners and seven ways to follow the diet, but a downloadable Mediterranean shopping list.
Two major components of the Mediterranean diet include beans and extra-virgin olive oil (a personal favorite that I pair with balsamic glaze to make salad dressing.) This recent article from U.S. News discussed why you should love beans, claiming that they “check all the boxes for: nutrition, affordability, availability easy to prepare, no matter your cooking skill, no-waste shelf stability… [and] versatility.” If you’re not a huge fan of olive oil but are still interested in trying out this diet, U.S. News also recently outlined lesser-known healthy cooking oils that you should try. Included on the list are avocado, peanut, flaxseed and safflower oils.
Something Seems Fishy
Every holiday, from Thanksgiving to Christmas to Mother’s Day (yes, we did this over the weekend) my family substitutes your typical turkey dinner with fresh scallops, cod, haddock, salmon, or, on extra special days, lobster. We’ve never been huge fans of turkey anyways so this tradition serves not only our tastes, but our health. Reading about the Mediterranean diet reminded me of why consuming fish is extremely important when it comes to giving our brain and body a boost.
One of the best things about fish is the fact that it is low in fat yet high in quality protein. They also are high in omega-3’s, vitamins D and B2, calcium, and minerals such as zinc, iron and potassium. Even the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice per week. Furthermore, Healthline suggests that seafood helps lower your risk for heart attacks and strokes, boosts your brain health, helps treat and fight depression, may protect your vision and prevent asthma, and might even improve your sleep quality.
As is the case with almost everything we eat, there are some fish that are healthier to consume than others. According to this article from Eating Well, five of the healthiest fish to eat are Atlantic mackerel, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, wild-caught pacific sardines, rainbow trout, and herring. Making up their list of five fish to avoid are bluefin tuna, orange roughy, farmed salmon, mahi-mahi (dolphinfish), and halibut (because of the depletion of Atlantic halibut populations.) This slideshow from WebMD adds shrimp to the list of healthy seafood, in addition to explain why we should avoid fish that are high in mercury and the difference between wild-caught and farm-raised.
If I’ve inspired you to add more fish to your diet, try local, fresh and wild-caught from Ocean’s Table, a fresh fish delivery service in Newburyport. Read our exclusive interview with them here.
Cheers! Finally, an uplifting article about alcohol consumption. The findings of a recent study, detailed here, suggest that a moderate alcohol intake has been associated with a lowered risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Screen Time. Do you find comfort in sleeping with the TV on? Or, are you the opposite — do you hate when your partner forgets to turn it off? This article examines studies about how technology affects our sleep, and provides reasons for both why it might be a good thing and why it may be a bad thing.
Shopaholic. Did you find a sense of relief from the quarantine blues in Amazon packages arriving on your doorstep? Healthline offers seven tips to kicking the quarantine online-shopping habit. This is one I definitely need to bookmark.
All this talk about fish has got me thinking about one of the greatest movies of all time. If you’ve made it this far, this is your sign to get into the summer spirit and watch Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster, Jaws.