Many foods benefit your body. But it’s easy to forget the link between the mind and body, primarily through the gut-brain axis. Although relatively recently discovered and researched, this axis is now considered valid and why the gut is referred to so often as the “second brain”.
In this article, we will be speaking on the foods that benefit your gut and your brain through the gut-brain axis, as the impact of some foods that you may be walking past in the supermarket can have an extraordinary effect on your brain function.
Health Benefits of The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet has received a lot of hype in the health world several times over the past decade and has been the focus of many health articles, and for a good reason.
All studies seem to point to the diet improving the individual's life span and multiple other benefits, including skin and hair health. This could be due to several reasons, but the main factor in this diet that appears to stand out is the following:
- Attention to the quality of ingredients
- High-quality extra virgin olive oil for cooking and dressing
- High intake of fresh vegetables
- Moderate consumption of protein
So, What Are the Benefits?
The studied benefits of the Mediterranean diet are pretty impressive, and it appears that it truly is a feast for the mind, body and gut.
One of the most prevalent aspects of the diet is its impact on the individual's heart health. An analysis of 5 studies between the years 2014 to 2018 assessed that the diet is associated with improved cardiovascular health, which included:
- Clinically meaningful reduction in rates of coronary heart disease
- Reduction in ischemic stroke
- Reduction of total cardiovascular disease1
A side-by-side study of the Mediterranean and low-fat diets also measured a slowing of plaque build-up in the arteries compared to those on a low-fat diet.2
Plaque build-up in the arteries is typically a precursor to heart-related illnesses, so don’t fall for fear of fat in this day and age!
Another study collected data on individuals who partook in the Mediterranean diet that regularly checked the blood pressure of those involved. Enough of a difference was discovered to suggest an improvement in the blood pressure of those on a diet.
The study pointed to the diet’s potential in helping countries with increased cardiovascular disease.3
The Mediterranean diet isn’t only good for your heart but also great for your brain. Studies show that it's protective against the damage ageing can have on your brain health.
One study found a link between those with a Mediterranean diet and a lowered likelihood of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment.4 Furthermore, an extensive study of over five hundred people found that the diet was conducive to improving memory function.5
Helps To Stabilise Blood Sugar Levels
A plethora of research supports that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial in balancing blood sugar levels, with studies indicating that the diet has a protective effect against type 2 diabetes.6
Studies also dictate that it can lower insulin resistance which, if left unchecked, can impair the body’s ability to utilise insulin when regulating blood sugar levels.7
Supports Good Gut Health
The majority of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet could be due to its impact on the gut. The gut thrives off polyphenols and vegetables rich in prebiotics and a reduced amount of protein, so the gut doesn’t have to spend too long breaking down the proteins.
So, the gut is taking care of you by breaking down the Mediterranean diet, but it also impacts your gut health in turn.
One study concluded the diet is highly anti-inflammatory. In a study of 1400 people and those who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had a much more diverse microbiome and lower levels of inflammatory markers in their stool.8
These studies have further correlated the Mediterranean diet with a higher bifidobacterium count. This is usually attributed to more significant consumption of plant-based nutrients9. Studies are still being compiled to promote the Mediterranean diet to help with western disease, metabolism and overall gut health.
So, the Mediterranean diet may be a good idea for those looking to improve overall health as well as other aspects of health. It’s not like other diets rooted in restriction and losing weight, which can be extremely enjoyable!
Health Benefits of Figs
Figs are beneficial to add to your diet for several reasons; they are delicious and can also help with your skin, gut, and brain health!
Studies have found that fig contains high levels of antioxidants, and when consumed or used as a topical cream, it can aid in reducing symptoms of dermatitis even more so than hydrocortisone cream, which is the preferred prescription when someone seeks medical help for dermatitis.10
Gut and Digestive Health
Figs have a long-standing history of usage as a remedy for digestive issues. This is due to their high content of prebiotics. Dietary fibre helps to maintain or increase the health of the gut. The influence of this fibre aids in softening stools and helping with constipation.11
A study on 150 Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers found that those who consumed dried figs twice daily had a substantial reduction in IBS symptoms, including stomach pain, bloating and constipation, compared to those with no figs in their diet.12
Figs are well studied in their impact on brain health. Studies claim that adding figs to one’s diet can drastically reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
This is most likely due to their high levels of nutrients and polyphenols such as
- Vitamin K
A study concluded that the supplementation of figs improved memory, anxiety levels and learning skills, leading to figs being further researched for their usage in cognitive and behavioural deficits in humans.13
So, whether you want to improve your digestive, brain, or skin health, try adding some figs to your summer salad!
Health Benefits of Maca Root
Maca has had a lot of press in the online fitness culture, primarily by male bodybuilders. For a short time, it was coined as a legal testosterone booster due to its benefits in enhancing energy and sex drive in the consumer.
This root has been around for many years and has its history within ancient cultures, even dating back to 3800 B.C.14
Maca is considered beneficial for several reasons; these include:
Promoting Good Gut Health
Studies have highlighted that one of the critical benefits of maca root is its ability to help digestion as well as drawing out nutrients from foods and improving transportation of these nutrients via the small intestine.15
Positive Impact on Libido and Mental Health
Studies have covered the impact of maca on enhancing one’s libido, but this isn’t all it can do. Maca has been proven to have the ability to reduce symptoms of depression, decrease anxiety symptoms as well as boost overall energy.16
A 12-week experiment also looked into maca’s impact on libido alongside a placebo libido and found that libido dramatically increased with those supplementing maca. As well as this, testosterone count is increased with the supplementation of maca.17
The Bottom Line
We hope that these tips help you on your health journey. It’s worth mentioning that it's always better to consult a medical professional when fixing your health and diet. Care should also always be taken when researching diets online, as many recent diets focus on fat loss and weight loss.
These diets and their promotion fuel the connotation between losing weight and health, which is not the case in most circumstances. Health is, above all, the most important thing above aesthetics as well as mental health. So, make sure to take care of them accordingly.