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A Healthy Diet, A Healthy Mind

Before we implement a healthy diet into our lives, it can be beneficial to learn more about what a healthy diet consists of, why it's important, and how it can help protect our minds from factors like the detrimental effects of aging. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, is a diet that’s well known for its many known health benefits, including keeping the mind sharp. One healthy aspect of the Mediterranean diet is its high concentration of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which we’ll discuss below.

What is an Omega-3 Fatty Acid and how much do I need?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are found in many foods like fish, nuts and seeds, and plant oils – specifically extra virgin olive oil! The three main Omega-3 Fatty acids are Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The recommended amount of ALA tends to increase in grams as you age, but the main factors are age and sex (1). The recommended amount from birth to 12 months is approximately 0.5 g. Pregnant teens and women are recommended to consume 1.4 g. Men are recommended to consume 1.6 g. 

Table from National Institutes of Health (1)

Why is this important?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain growth and cognition. In the fetal brain, they become necessary during the third trimester of pregnancy (as the fetal brain develops) and continue to remain essential through the age of two. In order to ensure the continued growth of the brain and the retina, breast milk or formula must provide AA (arachidonic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid) and DHA as they’re essential for brain growth and cognition. DHA is in breast milk and fortified in many infant formulas. AA is mainly found in fish and is specifically known to impact inflammation, cell growth, and the central nervous system.

Our brain controls our memories, feelings, actions, and reactions and essentially enables us to think and feel, making it imperative to protect our brains to guarantee optimal functioning (1)! 

How can I incorporate this into my diet?

Mediterranean diets are especially iconic for incorporating extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), to create a well-balanced diet, and, as we previously discussed, includes both DHA and AA. DHA is one of the main omega-3 Fatty acids, which research has linked to cognitive development. In fact, the Mediterranean diet has been reported to significantly decrease cognitive dysfunction and mortality in 182 men and women aged 70 years (2). Still unsure about what extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) would be the best for your needs? Check out Olivaio, the recipe, and links below for additional information. 

Does the Mediterranean diet have any other benefits?

Yes! Research displays a reduction in both a risk of mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease in those who followed a Mediterranean diet. In addition, higher intake of EPA and DHA from foods or dietary supplements has shown results of lower triglyceride levels. This is important because high triglyceride levels may contribute to the thickening of artery walls or hardening of arteries, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The Mediterranean diet can also prevent age-related neurologic dysfunction by preventing damage and neuroinflammation, while still protecting the body from cognitive decline (2). In regard to Schizophrenia, we’ve learned “[the] combination of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants (vitamins E and C) improves the outcome” (2)

The biggest step one can take towards living a healthy lifestyle is prevention. By taking steps to improve your diet, you can prevent some of the detriments of aging, like its impact on the brain. 

Okay! How do I start?

By taking a small measure of incorporating extra virgin olive oil into your diet, you can increase your consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce future health risks. In addition, eat foods that provide various essential vitamins. The antioxidants listed above can be found in whole foods. Vitamin E is found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and vegetable oils, and vitamin C can be found in fruits like strawberries and raspberries. Omega-3 fatty acids display a positive impact on health, and you can start incorporating them into your diet today! 

Why Olivaio?

Olivaio is an extra virgin olive oil subscription box that will motivate you and your family to maintain a healthy diet. Each month, you receive the highest quality extra virgin olive oil shipped directly from our family of farmers in Italy to your doorstep. Olivaio is focused on creating a happier and healthier lifestyle, by promoting health and wellness.  

All this reading … I’m hungry!

An easy way to implement Olive Oil into your cooking is to use this extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with your spaghetti! Just cook your spaghetti as you normally would and drain the water. Then saute garlic, pepper, and salt with Olivaio and add your favorite spices. Next, coat the pasta with your sauce and enjoy! This dish doesn’t require many ingredients and can be prepared quickly to make your busy life easier. 

Written by Mridini Chandrasekaran
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.