Experts tout benefits of Mediterranean diet

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DENVER -- When you think about diets, you often think of bland and boring foods. But the Mediterranean diet has changed that perception by recommending rich foods full of good fats. This diet has been shown to promote heart health, and now a new study indicates it could also protect against brain damage.

“We’re looking at little tiny blood vessels in the brain,” said Tracy Boykin, a registered dietitian at Denver’s Clinical Nutrition Center.

Researchers found people on this diet showed less evidence of damage to those blood vessels.
So what foods should you eat?

“Monounsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, olives, and nuts, all part of the Mediterranean diet, raise your good cholesterol,” Boykin said.

Those are all common ingredients at Garbanzo Mediterranean grill in Denver. The restaurant’s marketing and public relations manager, Beth Hardy, said customers are getting smarter about what they eat.

“They understand the health benefits, that it’s heart healthy and brain healthy, and they come in and ask for certain things,” Hardy said.

Outside of the health benefits, for many the best thing about this diet is how good it tastes.

“I love eating healthy, so when you can eat healthy and it tastes this good, then that’s really good,” said Peter Bittner.

“I already love Mediterranean food so those extra perks are nice to know about,” said Rachel Attaway.

If you’re eating in, there's an easy way to start incorporating the Mediterranean diet in your home.

“Make at least half your grains whole,” said Boykin. “Buy whole wheat hamburger buns, whole wheat hot dog buns. Make sure your crackers are whole wheat.”

Another perk to the Mediterranean diet is that red wine is encouraged. It is, however, a smaller amount than most Americans are used to: 5 ounces or less a day for women, and about twice that for men. The study about these new findings appears in the Archives of Neurology.