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Researchers may have found another benefit of the so-called Mediterranean diet. According to a recent report in HealthDay News, the Mediterranean diet gives extra protection to seniors who are close adherents of the diet. This diet mimics the way many Mediterranean countries have eaten for centuries, with focus on lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans olive oil, garlic and fish. Typically the diet is low in red meat and other saturated fats. Researchers in the study tracked how a Mediterranean diet affected the microbiomes of more than 600 people, aged 65 to 79, who were living in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom. Half ate their normal diet, and the other half a Mediterranean diet specially tailored for older people. Testing was done before the start of the study and again after twelve months.

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Prior studies have found that the Mediterranean diet is good for maintaining a healthy weight and supports good heart health. This study was specifically looking at the effect of the diet on the stomach microbiome-the trillions of bacteria living in the human digestive tract. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet for a year had a number of beneficial changes to the stomach microbiome. For example, the diet seemed to help stem the loss of diversity in bacterial species in the gut. A more diverse microbiome is healthier and more able to meet different challenges. The Mediterranean diet was also tied to a rise in bacterial species that have long been associated with keeping people physically and mentally stronger as they age. The diet was also linked to a lower production in the gut of potentially harmful inflammatory chemicals.

How can you make changes to more closely follow a Mediterranean diet?

Shop for fiber-rich foods, which are especially important in helping seniors maintain digestive regularity. These foods help seniors receive Mediterranean Diet benefits.

In place of supplements and pills, the Mediterranean diet recommends plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and peanuts, which are all great sources of fiber. Plus these foods are naturally high in vitamins, minerals and enzymes to aid digestion.

Buy fish.

We are in an area with many local fishermen. The Mediterranean diet recommends eating fish at least twice a week as a way to lower blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.

Reach for natural calcium sources, which can help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Mediterranean ingredients such as beans, dairy products, and spinach head the list. Try Greek yogurt, which is rich in calcium and vitamin D and contains twice the protein of regular yogurt.

Think of meat as a condiment or a side dish, rather than the main event at a meal.

Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and whole grains packed with unique flavors and textures can easily serve as a satisfying main feature. Add only small amounts of lean meats.

Lots of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables can be found in the frozen food aisle.

Buy them in bags, which makes it easy to take our small amounts at a time and reseal the rest. Add them to soups and stews, or toss with pasta or rice.

Remember that you can incorporate changes at your own pace. You do not have to switch faster than you are comfortable. Any changes will move you in the right direction and perhaps create a willingness to further changes.