Mediterranean Food: Good for Your Body and Your Wallet

By Sarah Goughnour

College girls should be trading their ramen noodles for Mediterranean cuisine. Studies show that not only does this diet promote longer, healthier living, it’s also easy on your budget. Focusing on meals with fresh produce, olive oil, and nuts can reduce dependence on expensive junk foods, and the amount of money spent snacking. This Mediterranean diet built on cheap, healthy ingredients, can lead to better moods, as well as improved physical and cognitive ability in old age.

To test just how affordable the Mediterranean diet can be, Dr. Mary Flynn, a research dietician, designed a study around a Rhode Island food bank to help low-income families make more nutritious meals. Participants were given six weeks of cooking classes, and a bag of groceries to recreate the meals they had seen. The Atlantic reports that although these people were not given any additional information about nutrition, or instructed on a grocery plan for the future, they began consuming more fruits and vegetables, and stopped buying as many dessert and snack foods. The study even showed a reduced dependence on the foods banks themselves, and enabled the participants to become more secure in finding food for their families.

Here is a closer look at what makes Mediterranean foods so essential:

Fish: Time magazine quotes a study saying that consuming lean meats like fish can make a person about 40 percent more likely to live “past age 70 without chronic disease or physical and cognitive impairment.” The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are a big part of its health benefits. In salmon, omega-3s have been linked to increased cognitive capability, improvement in mood, and even higher IQ levels. Salmon also includes vitamin B12, which is vital for neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which is linked to mood control.

Olive oil: Olive oil is full of not only vitamin E, which protects against heart disease and defends the fat content of our cells, it also contains polyphenols, which function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. These properties even help in cardiovascular health, bone health, and digestive health, as well as having cognitive, and cancer-fighting benefits. Olive oil can even help protect our brains in tough times, such as water content or nervous system imbalance.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes have long been linked to heart and bone heath, through their high antioxidant content, and their ability to reduce cholesterol. They are also high in vitamin A, which helps with vision, immune system support, cell growth, and vitamin C intake, which is required to produce collagen and certain neurotransmitters. Collagen is a protein that structures our skin and bones, which is why a Mediterranean diet high antioxidants like vitamin C can help sustain the body later in life. By including tomatoes in your diet, you can build a body and brain that will last longer and perform better.

Brown rice: Brown rice is another food is linked to cardiovascular health, especially in older women, but it has many other benefits for people of all ages. Even younger women who eat brown rice and other whole grains have been known to weigh less that other women. The manganese in brown rice is important for the production of energy from protein and carbohydrates, as well as the production of sex hormones, since it helps make cholesterol. Manganese also helps produce collagen, and is important for skin integrity, including protection against UV damage.

From their most basic components, the foods are built to improve life, physically and cognitively. The best news is that with a Mediterranean diet, anyone can afford these life-changing benefits.

Works Cited

The Atlantic: “Study: Mediterranean Diet Can Save Money”

Time Magazine:  “Eat More Mediterranean Foods Now: Your Later Self Will Thank You”

Photo Credit

Categories: Your Nutrition

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