Friday, February 12, 2010

The Mediterranean Diet & Stroke Connection: Incentive to Get Your Fruits & Veggies?

A new study out of Columbia University Medical Center reveals that adhering to the Mediterranean diet may help seniors avoid strokes, and ultimately dementia. A Mediterranean-like diet can lead to reduced strokes in the part of the brain that leads to reduced cognitive function in later years, according to the study. The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating whole grains and fruits and vegetables, and has been popular over the years for some of its delicious essentials, such as fresh food, seafood, olive oil, nuts – even wine.

This new connection to the Mediterranean diet to neurological disorders is good news, but whether or not we couch eating low fat foods of high nutritional value in "diet" terms, the need for getting fruits and veggies is crucial at a time when their absence in the American diet is clear. Fruit and vegetable consumption has always been low, but today, some nutritionists consider the current climate a "perfect storm" against good nutrition. The nutritional data indicate only 33% of Americans eat the recommended servings of fruit, and 27% eat the recommended amount of vegetables. And, these are benchmarks that should be attainable. They are not, for instance, for every person to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. In fact, national objectives require 75% of Americans to eat only two or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables – and no state has met this requirement.

There is no reason not to eat healthy food. What we eat is directly related to diseases of aging like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's and other dementias, and some cancers. Plus, a poor diet will show up in energy levels, concentration, poor dental health and susceptibility to viruses and infections. However, fast food availability and advertising for highly processed, low nutrient foods has contributed to this perfect nutritional storm and has led to skyrocketing rates of obesity, which aggravates every disease of aging.

Will the latest news of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet do anything toward turning the raging tides? Anything that puts the focus on the needs of fruits and veggies in the diet is a positive step. But it will take efforts toward affordability, availability and education to calm the gale-force winds of this nutritional storm.

Take the poll below and see where you stand when it comes to getting your fruits and veggies. Then, go to Fruits and Veggies Matter to find out how many fruits and vegetables your body needs.

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