Inspired by diets commonly followed in the middle of the 20th Century by residents of Italy, Greece, Spain, and other nations around (or within) the Mediterranean Sea, the Mediterranean Diet consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and a healthy supply of virgin olive oil. It also means only moderate consumption of dairy products, rare consumption of red meat, and almost total avoidance of processed foods and sugary beverages.
Experts have long noted the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which include a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, and/or type-II diabetes, as well as weight loss and lower blood pressure.
Now, a new study conducted by the United States Air Force has found that a Mediterranean diet may also improve cognitive abilities—at least when it's paired with plenty of exercise. The Air Force study used a double-blind test and control group, both of which followed an identical, strict exercise regimen for 12 weeks. During that period, one group was given daily supplements that mimicked the nutritional properties of Mediterranean diet foods while the others got a placebo. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)
At the end of the trial period, the group that had taken the real supplement showed a significant improvement in six out of eight cognitive tests, while those taking the placebo improved in only four out of the eight tests.
The results suggest that the Mediterranean diet along with exercise may improve working memory, mental reaction time, and provide other cognitive benefits as well.
Hey, if healthy food can make you smarter, we're all for filling up on the good stuff! Here's a list of all the foods you can eat on the Mediterranean Diet. And for more healthy eating news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter.