The Mediterranean diet has become well-known for boosting heart health, but a recent study conducted in Spain revealed benefits for your brain health as well. The secret is consuming healthy fats (monounsaturated fats) from foods like olive oil and nuts. Healthy fats were shown to help protect your brain against the early signs of dementia.

The study was conducted at the University of Navarra in Spain and results were reported by Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez and colleagues in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. According to Martinez, a Mediterranean diet can help reduce inflammation and might help fight the artery-clogging plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The Mediterranean diet is based on foods and dietary habits typical of those who live in the Mediterranean, featuring seafood, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and even wine.

Many mistakenly believe it's a diet based on huge amounts of pasta and red wine. But pasta in these regions is more likely served as a side dish or accompanies a healthy protein source, and wine should be limited to a glass with your meal.

Keeping in line with the basics of the Mediterranean diet, the following are the best foods to eat to help protect your brain as you age:


Olive oil

Many people have been trained to stay away from all oil, particularly if they are eating a low-fat diet and watching their weight. However, olive oil features monounsaturated fatty acids, which recent research shows helps protect you from the early signs of dementia that go along with aging and some diseases of the brain.

In general, the Mediterranean diet features a slightly higher percentage of fat than what most traditional "diets" recommend. But, the Mediterranean diet is really more of a lifestyle that embraces a plant-based diet and a more relaxed and less stressful way of living and eating.



Walnuts are a rich source of Omega-3 fat (think salmon and other "oily" fish) and alpha-linoleic acid (helps lower cholesterol), and as part of the Mediterranean diet have already proven to help promote healthy arteries and hearts. Consuming walnuts after a high-fat meal has been shown to improve artery function.



Almonds have long been considered to beneficial to hair and skin and due to the high fiber content are a fat-burning food. They also provide a rich source of several nutrients including potassium and magnesium.

The recent Mediterranean diet study included almonds, along with walnuts and hazelnuts, as part of a mixed nut combination that proved to help participants avoid the earliest signs of dementia. This isn't that surprising considering that almonds contain tryptophan, which is great for brain development.



Like walnuts, hazelnuts contain monounsaturated fat and linoleic acid to help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Hazelnuts also are packed with B-complex vitamins and folates and are a rich source of minerals such as potassium and magnesium.