10 Mediterranean Diet Foods to Add to Your Diet for Anti-Aging
From lowering inflammation to reducing your risk for chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease, the Mediterranean Diet has no shortage of health perks to prop up its reputation. Here’s one you maybe haven’t heard of yet; The Mediterranean diet could also be useful for anti-aging health benefits. The Mediterranean way of life includes a variety of plant-forward foods: whole grains, fruits and veggies, beans and lagoons. It is also rich and healthy fat, particularly coming from unsaturated sources like avocado, olive oil, and nuts and seeds. Pair your plant-based foods, and your healthy fats with a lean protein source or a piece of fish, and you have a well-rounded plate of Mediterranean diet foods.
So which ones should you specifically grab? Dietitians and nutrition experts share exactly which Mediterranean diet foods seem to have anti-aging benefits, and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
1. Leafy Greens
Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, leafy greens have benefits from improved blood sugar to decreased memory loss — a key symptom of aging. A Mediterranean diet includes lots of green leafy vegetables which research suggests reduces your risk of dementia, according to a 2023 study in Neurology, Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD tells us. Spinach, kale, arugula, and other deep hues of greens are all great sources to add to your diet.
2. Whole Grains
Increasing whole grains in your diet means reducing your risk of the negative health effects of aging including signs of cognitive decline. “A 2019 review stated evidence of reduced cognitive decline in elderly Asians that focused on multi-grains such as brown rice, millet, black rice, and barley instead of white rice and noodles. Whole grains have more polyphenols which are plant compounds that can protect brain, heart, and digestive health,” says Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES.
Kimberley Wiemann, MS, RDN, a Long Island, NY based registered dietitian shares how nuts are an anti-aging part of the Mediterranean diet: “Likely due to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties from omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and polyphenols, nuts are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet and can offer powerful anti-aging properties. A 2019 study showed that consuming walnuts, peanuts, and tree nuts may help to prevent cognitive decline in an aging population.”
Nuts are also rich in Vitamin E, a critical nutrient for skin health as we age. “Packed with vitamin E, almonds shield your skin from free radicals. Emerging research hints at their potential to reduce facial wrinkles and combat skin pigmentation, particularly for postmenopausal women. Whether it’s a crunchy salad topping, a morning oats boost, or a simple handful grab, almonds could be the delicious secret to youthful, radiant skin,” Chelsea LeBlanc, RDN, LD, is a Nashville, TN based dietitian and owner of Chelsea LeBlanc Nutrition shares.
Well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, garlic is a powerful tool for anti-aging and protecting against negative health effects that come with getting older. Garlic contains antioxidants that can help protect against cognitive decline related to cell damage and aging, adds Moushumi Mukherjee MS RDN, a Michigan-based dietitian. Garlic also contains many skin-protective polyphenols, strong antioxidants that may keep our skin firm and youthful, and it contains sulfur, which helps the body produce collagen and helps fight wrinkles, she comments.
Linked to health improvements like better blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and cognitive health, beans may be a magical fruit in more ways than one. “In a study that aimed to identify protective dietary predictors amongst long-lived elderly people, legumes were the only food factor associated with a longer lifespan across the board, showing a 7-8% reduction in mortality for every 20 gram increase per day, says Maria Emerick, MS, RDN, LD of Bethlehem, PA. That’s an astonishing result that you can achieve with just half a cup of cooked beans per day.
Bursting with antioxidants and an excellent source of fiber, berries are a plant-based food to include in your diet if your goal is healthy aging, specifically when it comes to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Berries are one of the foods highest in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and aging, says Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND, the founder & CEO of The Kidney Dietitian.
7. Wild Caught Salmon
Salmon and other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids should make an appearance in your diet at least 2-3 times a week for a long and healthy life, Kelsey Kunik, RDN at Graciously Nourished tells us. “A large 16-year study with over 400,000 men and women found that those who ate the most fish had an 8-9% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who ate the least amount of fish,” she adds.
Salmon from Alaska is guaranteed to be wild-caught and rich in omega-3 fatty acids as there are not fish farming practices in the state. Wild sockeye salmon in particular, most of which is sustainably harvested from Alaska, has the highest vitamin D content of all types of salmon, which gives an extra anti-aging boost for the skin, comments Kristen Carli, MS, RD.
8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Perhaps one of the most well recognized Mediterranean diet foods, olive oil is rich in heart healthy fat that is an excellent source of vitamin E. In addition to its health benefits, vitamin E is also an excellent nutrient to include for skin health and some additional support in the beauty department.
Karolin Saweres, MS, RDN comments on the compelling research on olive oil and anti-aging: “A 2018 randomized controlled trial published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition observed that participants who consumed a Mediterranean diet enriched with EVOO showed improvements in various markers of oxidative stress. The research increasingly suggests that the inclusion of extra virgin olive oil in the diet, rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, can contribute to mitigating oxidative stress and may play a role in promoting healthier aging.”
9. Sweet Potatoes
The antioxidants that make sweet potatoes vibrant in color also supports skin health. Sweet potatoes, a delicious and nutritious addition to the Mediterranean diet, are rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, which supports skin health through combating oxidative stress, thus potentially reducing the signs of aging, according to a 2022 study published in Antioxidants, adds Sharon McCaskill, MA, RDN, founder of The Helpful GF: Gluten Free Living with Confidence.
10. Wild Blueberries
Wild Blueberries offer two times the health-helping antioxidants of conventional berries—and are proven to benefit your memory and brain health, claims Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, CEO of Plant Based with Amy and Master the Media. “Case in point: In a study in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that older adults who add wild blueberries to their daily diet for three months made less mistakes in memory tests! Also, regularly eating wild blueberries has been shown to help improve mood and decrease depression in some teenagers, per a study in Nutrients,” she concludes.