What we eat – and what our kids eat – affects so much in life: appearance, energy, cognition, focus, mood, how often we get sick, how quickly we get better, how likely we are to develop a chronic disease, and how we age.
Every bite of food is either an investment in our future, a new debt we are taking out, or some of both.
There are many ways to enjoy the benefits of real food. One healthy way of eating that has been studied a lot is the Mediterranean diet, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, herbs, spices, and olive oil. Red meats, processed foods, and added sugars are limited.
Long-term enjoyment of a Mediterranean diet has been linked to many great benefits, including better cognitive function, better memory, better mood, and better quality of life (as well as a lower chance of neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly).
The Mediterranean diet’s cognitive benefits might spring from its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. It has been linked with reduced oxidative stress, which plays a crucial role in both neurodevelopment and the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
Key nutrients in this diet that contribute to cognitive health include omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols. Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, have been associated with improved brain function and reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Polyphenols, abundant in fruits, vegetables, and olive oil, have antioxidant properties that may enhance neurodevelopment and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Any time is a great time to start enjoying delicious real food – even later in life – but the earlier the better. A 2023 randomized study of pregnant women showed measurable benefits from a Mediterranean diet even before birth!
This was a study of 626 children whose mothers were randomized during pregnancy to have either routine care, a Mediterranean diet, intervention or a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (which also showed benefit).
Those in the Mediterranean diet group had 90-minute visits with nutritionists each month for 3 months. At each visit they received 2 liters of extra virgin olive, a pound of walnuts, 4 weekly fresh, seasonal shopping lists, and all recipes, meal plans, and menus.
When their babies were two years old, the babies in the stress reduction group had improved social-emotional development compared to those who just had routine care. Those in the Mediterranean diet group scored higher on both social-emotional development and cognitive development.
Great food can improve neurodevelopment and brain function. Today is the best day to start.
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