When it comes to looking after your heart and brain through food, you can’t move past the Mediterranean way of eating. The real all-rounder of diets, the Mediterranean’s have long-been hailed the healthiest thanks to the high fish, olive oil and healthy-fat content of the protocol, not to mention the abundance of fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies that it encourages.
However, new research from the University of Rotterdam has found that those who ate the ‘Dutch way’ had significantly better cognitive abilities than those who didn’t. Here’s what you need to know about the Dutch diet (and spoiler: it doesn’t tell you to cut out dairy or carbs. Gimme the pastries!).
When a team of researchers at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam studied people who ate the ‘Dutch way’ (think: mediterranean but with considerably more dairy and carbohydrates) they found that their brains were actually bigger and they had “better cognitive abilities” than those who didn’t follow that way of eating. Maybe croissants really are the answer?
Another study contends that the Dutch diet is better than a Western diet in terms of both physiological and psychological benefits thanks to the fact that the diet consists of a lot of ‘slow’ calories—aka, calories that require a longer eating time and have a lower energy density. The basic principle is that because Western diets are often centred around high, ‘fast’ calorie, highly processed foods, satiety doesn’t last for very long; where as slow foods keep you much fuller for longer.
Your parents probably encouraged you to eat more fish around exam periods, because fish is renowned for boosting brain health and memory thanks to its high omega 3 content (sardines, anyone?).
While eating fish has been scientifically proven to boost brain health over an extended period of time, the Dutch diet likes to focus on the diet as a whole, as opposed to isolating ‘healthy’ foods within it.
The Dutch way involves realising that all of the foods you eat work together, for better or for worse. It’s about recognising that a piece of fish for dinner twice a week won’t negate the destructive impact that lots of sugar or processed food can have on your health.
In a time where keto is king, carbs get a pretty bad wrap. Although Dutch portions tend to be smaller than those in a typical Western diet and they, as a nation, usually live a more active lifestyle, they never shy away from a carb or two—with at least two meals a day tending to centre around bread.
They also commonly consume dairy in the forms of yoghurt, cheese and cottage cheese, alongside whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, fruit and vegetables. Sugar, unsurprisingly, doesn’t play a big role in a healthy Dutch diet, and saturated fats and processed foods are pretty unwelcome too.
Consider our interest firmly piqued.