Fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish and olive oil! That’s all the goodness that’s good for you…plus some lean protein (chicken/meat) once in awhile if you so desire. And oh…sometimes a sip of red wine pairs perfectly with it all…

This is the basis of the Mediterranean diet which (although thousands of years old) made the news headlines a few years back.

So whats the latest buzz about the Med diet? Researchers have studied groups of individuals, particularly those who live in Mediterranean areas (ie. Spain) and consumed a Mediterranean type diet. Not only has this diet shown to decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes, but more recently researchers have found this type of diet to have a correlation to protecting the brain. JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital  (and professor at Harvard) believes, “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain,” because regular ingesting of the primary foods in this diet can help to improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. All of these markers ultimately affect brain health.

Moreover, a diet high in antioxidant rich foods, such as fruits and veggies, helps to combat oxidation stress–that’s the damage our cells undergo by free radicals. The antioxidants in the foods help repair the cells and prevent further damage.

The Omega 3 and 6’s found in fish, olive oil, nuts and some veggies work to boost your immunity and optimize your neural network (ie. more improved brain health)! Researchers are now beginning to believe that many of these foods can shave off age-related memory loss.

So if you haven’t yet added the Mediterranean diet to your own personal daily regime, it’s probably time to start. At least give it a try. Here’s a pretty quick and easy recipe, made with the anti-aging goodness of the Mediterranean in mind:

garlicky quinoa

Garlicky Quinoa and Garbanzo Bean Salad (with appreciation and credit to Allrecipes.com)

This dish will get you moving “Mediterranean style” with broccoli, whole grain (quinoa), legumes (garbanzo beans), zesty herbs, lemon and not-to-miss olive oil! Notice how all of these ingredients are healthy, hearty and mixed to be especially tasty. If you prefer to add some extra (non vegan) protein, add cubed roasted chicken breast or roasted salmon for a lovely flair!

Ingredients

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa                          3/4 cup chopped broccoli                         1 TSP dried tarragon

1 cup water                                                 1 clove minced garlic                              3 TSPs coarse-grained mustard

1 can drained garbanzo beans                   1 TBSP fresh lemon juice                       3 TBSPs  extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until quinoa is tender–about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Put cooked quinoa in mixing bowl and add garbanzo beans, broccoli, garlic, lemon juice, tarragon, mustard and olive oil. Stir well. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is fairly quick and easy to prepare (10 min plus an additional 15 min of cooking time)! Voila, you can have yourself a healthy heart and BRAIN meal in under half an hour. Just what your body needs–and it works perfectly into your schedule after a long day at work or at home with the family!

Now let it be said, that even the Mediterraneans know that just eating healthy food won’t alone necessarily optimize their health. Sprinkle in daily exercise, laughter, generosity, kindness, family time and community…and now you begin to develop an entire culture of well being and healthier lifestyle. Nothing can truly survive in a  vacuum. It all has to work in tandem: Diet-Movement-Outlook-Self Care- Gratitude-and of course your own set of beautiful genetics!

So who is “in” for a trip to the Mediterranean with me? Salty warm ocean waters, sandy beaches or daring cliffs, sunshine, warmhearted souls, healthy food, and the best brain trip you can imagine!

Featured photo credit: Miguel Discart via flickr.com

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