Researchers have developed a new version of Mediterranean diet that includes meat to cater to Western tastes and also deliver health benefits.
A typical Mediterranean diet includes extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrain breads, pastas and cereals, moderate amount of fish and red wine, and low consumption of red meat, sweet and processed foods.
The new version of the Mediterranean diet includes 2-3 serves (250g) of fresh lean pork each week.
The findings published in the journal Nutrients showed that the Mediterranean-Pork (Med-Pork) diet delivers cognitive benefits.
"The Mediterranean diet is widely accepted as the healthiest diet and is renowned for delivering improved cardiovascular and cognitive health, but in Western cultures, the red meat restrictions of the diet could make it hard for people to stick to," said Alexandra Wade from University of South Australia.
"By adding pork to the Mediterranean diet, we're broadening the appeal of the diet, while also delivering improved cognitive function," Wade said.
This study compared the cognitive effects of people aged 45-80 years and at risk of cardiovascular disease following a Med-Pork or a low-fat diet (often prescribed to negate risk factors for cardiovascular disease).
The results showed the Med-Pork intervention outperformed the low-fat diet, delivering higher cognitive processing speeds and emotional functioning, both markers of good mental health.
"Improving people's processing speed shows the brain is working well," Wade said.
"Then, when you add the fact that pork production emits only a fraction of the greenhouse gases compared with beef, and the Med-Pork diet is really ticking all boxes -- taste, health and environment," Wade said.