By Betty Murray
Mediterranean food is brain food, according to a new study in Spain.
The study followed more than 1,000 people over the course of six and a half years and found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet and supplemented their diets with extra nuts or olive oil performed better on cognitive tests than participants who followed a lower-fat diet.
A Mediterranean diet consists of whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish and red wine. It does not include processed foods and bad fats. It is a diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, reducing vascular damage, inflammation and damage from free radicals in the brain.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a Mediterranean diet is that the foods are light and enjoyable and not expensive.
Want to serve the family “brain food” for dinner? Try this recipe for Butternut Squash Pilaf from Eating Well.
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup instant or parboiled brown rice
1 3/4 cups water, or 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped fennel fronds, (see Ingredient Note)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Grate the squash through the large holes of a box grater.
2. Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly colored, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons water and tomato paste in a small bowl and stir it into the pan. Add rice and stir to coat. Add the squash, in batches if necessary, and stir until it has reduced in volume enough so that you can cover the pan.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in 1 3/4 cups water (or broth) and wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the squash is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Add fennel fronds, oregano, salt, cinnamon and pepper; gently stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.