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The Greek Alzheimer’s Prevention Diet

Mark Huntsman
By Mark HuntsmanOctober 16, 2014

It’s well established in our culture that changing your diet can improve not only your overall physical health but also your cognitive brain health. More than any other regional diet that’s been studied, the Greek or Mediterranean diet contains a set of nutrients that promote brain health and contribute to Alzheimer’s prevention. The best part is that many Greek dishes are not only healthy but delicious and often easy to prepare.

Learn more about the top food lessons for brain health from Greece and try out the below three recipes.

How a Mediterranean Diet Can Slow Alzheimer’s

We’ve known for years that people in certain regions of Greece have significantly lower rates of Alzheimer’s, heart attacks and strokes, than in North America, but there hasn’t been hard data to tell us how exactly the Mediterranean diet improves health. Now we do.

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American medicine has been slow to acknowledge that diet can positively affect brain health, in no small part because when researchers set out to study a specific dietary choice like the Greek diet, and measure its effectiveness in preventing specific brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, it takes decades.

In the case of a rigorous study that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it took five years to establish that “about 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet.”

The Greek Alzheimer’s Prevention Diet

The Greek diet not only offers seniors overall nutritional benefits, but also offers a path to Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention. It differs from the typical American diet in that it uses whole grains rather than white, as well as eating red meat just a handful of times per month. But, it’s rich in a number of things, including:

  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Fruits
  • Greek yogurt
  • Vegetables
  • Red wine (most often consumed with meals)

From high-profile chefs to enthusiastic amateur cooks, people who switch to the Mediterranean style of eating say they love the way they feel and will never go back.

Learn about three popular recipes from the Greek diet below that can help you improve your health.

Two-Bean Greek Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, divided
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag shelled frozen edamame or lima beans
  • 3/4 pound string beans
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 multi-grain pitas, halved horizontally
  • 3 ounces haloumi cheese (or ricotta salata), sliced into 4 pieces

Directions:

  1. In a serving bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, 2 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.
  2. Place steamer basket in saucepan filled with a few inches of water; cook edamame, covered, until tender (about 3 minutes). Transfer edamame to a bowl. Add string beans to steamer; cook, covered, until tender (about 2 minutes). Add beans to edamame. Add tomatoes and olives; toss to combine.
  3. Heat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush 1 teaspoon oil on one side of pitas; grill, turning, until golden (about 2 minutes). Transfer pitas to a plate. Brush 1/2 teaspoon oil evenly on one side of cheese slices; sprinkle with the remaining oregano and pepper. Grill cheese, seasoned side down, until marks form (about 1 minute); transfer to a plate.
  4. Place 1 pita half on each of 4 plates; top with bean salad and cheese. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Learn more about this Two-Bean Salad.

Greek Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound uncooked angel hair pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
  • 2 cups chopped red onion
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add chicken to pan; saute 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Add onion and next 5 ingredients (through tomatoes) to pan; stir well.
  5. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until chicken is done.
  6. Remove from heat; sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Serve with whole-grain pasta.

Learn more about this Greek Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta.

Roasted Asparagus and Fontina Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces asparagus
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • All-purpose flour and cornmeal
  • 1 pound whole-wheat pizza dough, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese

Directions:

  1. Place an oven rack on lowest position and preheat to 500°F.
  2. Combine oil and garlic. Trim asparagus; toss with salt, pepper and half of garlic mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 5 minutes.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 16 by 10-inch rectangle. Generously sprinkle a second baking sheet with cornmeal. Place dough on sheet. Add cheese and asparagus, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  4. Bake until cheese has melted and crust is crisp, about 12 minutes. Top with remaining garlic oil. Cut into 8 slices. Serve.

Learn more about this Roasted Asparagus and Fontina Pizza.

There are a wealth of resources out there that offer tasty and brain-healthy Greek-style recipes. Whether you’re looking for a cookbook like “It’s All Greek to Me,” or a web resource like “22 Ways to Eat Like a Greek Islander,” you have no shortage of options.

Whether you’re a dementia caregiver or just interested in Alzheimer’s prevention diets, the only question is: Why wouldn’t you want to discover what the Greek diet can do for you?

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Mark Huntsman
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