A few years ago the Tufts University newsletter (Volume 10G) included an article on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet:  “Eat Like a Mediterranean to Protect Your Aging Brain”.  I recently took an Italian cooking class at Cavallo Cooking School at Cavallo Point resort in Sausalito, California.  I have always respected that Italian cooking is based on local markets and seasonal produce.  At this class we made a raw zucchini salad, recipe below.  The Tuft’s article cited that, “Two newly published studies…confirmed a 2006 finding that the so-called “Mediterranean diet” may protect against mental decline with aging.  David S. Knopman, MD, of the Mayo Clinic said the results ‘provide moderately compelling evidence that adherence to the Mediterranean-type diet were at 40% lower risk of Alzheimer’s over 5.4 years than those with lowest adherence.'”

Diet Mediterranean Style was defined in the article as:

“More:  fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil)

Less:  red meat, dairy products and saturated fats…compared to the typical American diet, along with moderate alcohol consumption, especially of red wine with meals.”

Insalata di Zucchini romane crude by Viola Buitoni:
1/4 cup almonds
1 lemon
1 handful of basil
6 small light green or yellow zucchini
1 fresh onion
salt and pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

Blanch, peel and toast the almonds.  Let them cool and chop them.  Squeeze the juice out of the lemon.  Pick and wash the basil leaves, dry them carefully and stack them.  Roll them longitudinally and cut them into thin ribbons.

Using a mandolin, a shaver or a very sharp knife, slice the zucchini and onions paper-thin into a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and douse with lemon juice.  Toss well, cover and set aside.

Let stand for at least 15 minutes.  When ready to serve, add the almond and basil and toss well.  Dress with olive oil and pepper and toss again.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.  * Please note,  the mandolin we used was small, the size of a cheese grater.  I hope you have or can find one.  The width of the zucchini slices really make this salad!  Do also note that the mandolin does not distinguish zucchini from fingers; do use the hand guard.

The second study followed 1,410 older adults over five years.  “Catherine Feart, PhD, of the Universite Victor SegalenBordeaux 2 compared adherence to the “Mediterranean diet” with cognitive performance on four standard neuropsychological tests.  Researchers found that a higher “Mediterranean diet” score was associated with fewer errors on the Mini-Mental State Examination and with better Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test performances, but only among subjects who remained free from dementia over five years.”

At this class we also made Pesto; talk about olive oil!  Three things were unique:  one we used a mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients, secondly we followed the same *instructions with the basil from the recipe above, and thirdly, no pine nuts.  *Pick and wash the basil leaves, dry them carefully and stack them.  Roll them longitudinally and cut them into thin ribbons.  The rolled pesto can be cut with scissors or with a knife.

1 clove of garlic

1/4  freshly squeezed lemon

4 0zs of finely grated Reggiano Parmigiano or other high quality Parmesan cheese

1 bunch of fresh basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil to taste

Pound the garlic into a paste and place in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice.  Pound the basil until leaves are not discernible and place in bowl.  Because of variation in the amount of basil in a ‘bunch’ be aware of the how much you are adding.  Begin with 1/2 of the bunch and begin adding the cheese.   Stir in with wooden spoon and then add as much virgin olive oil as necessary.  Having some french bread close by to taste the pesto as you mix is highly recommended.

I used Orecchiette pasta for this meal because they are small and will provide a lot of surfaces for the pesto to coat.  Pesto can also be used as a dip.Sweet basil and zucchini are so plentiful this time of year.  Buy bunches at your local farmer’s market and make pesto and freeze it for future enjoyment.

The Tuffs University newsletter also went on to say, “The…analysis also looked at physical activity, finding that participants with the highest level of activity were at 33% lower risk of Alzheimer’s than the least-active subjects.  The most-active group average 1.3 hours of vigorous exercise, 2.4 hours of moderate activity or 4 hours of light activity per week.  Most important, said Dr. Scarmeas, was that the association of physical activity with Alzheimer’s disease risk was independent to that of the diet.

So move, move move.  Still using my Fitbit daily,  averaging about 100,000 steps a week.  One of my clients was very astute.  He started wearing the Fitbit without changing any of his activity patterns to establish as baseline.  Then he began walking to work two days a week.  He would climb stairs up and take the elevator down at work.  His baseline was about 2000 a week and he is now averaging about  20,000!  I said it in any earlier blog, “What we can quantify, we can calibrate!”

“Through conscious breathing, drink in Life Force.  Each increment of breath, each measure, is a space that opens.  It fulfills and cleanses.  Open to the resting phase of life to rebuild, to renew, to rejuvenate!  Just like in life, small steps equal large movement.  Step by step, breath by breath.”