MIND Diet: Overview
Content by: Jamie Rinaldi, RD, MS in Applied Physiology & Nutrition
The MIND diet is a mash-up of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. It was created to protect cognition, preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Read on to learn more about the foods included!
Decades of nutritional research have suggested that consuming particular foods, while avoiding others, appears to slow brain aging and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND, diet was born from this research (1).
✅ Foods to Eat:
🥬 Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are a must daily, in addition to at least one other serving of vegetables. The green leafy vegetables contain folic acid, vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids, which are associated with reduced cognitive decline. Including a variety of other vegetables rounds out this eating plan.
🍓 Berries are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with antioxidants and other micronutrients that support brain health. No fruits are unwelcome on this diet, however berries are a must at least 2 to 5 times a week.
🥜 Nuts or nut butters are recommended daily due to their vitamin E content. As they are high in calories and fat, moderation is recommended. Just an ounce a day will do!
🟢 Beans and/or legumes need to be on the menu at least 3 times a week. Beans, especially kidney and pinto, contain omega-3 fatty acids which support healthy brain function. Both beans and legumes contain antioxidants that fight off brain cell damage.
🍣 At least 1 serving of fatty fish per week is recommended due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. Salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel are some examples of fatty fish. Skinless chicken or turkey breast (READ: not fried) is included a minimum of twice weekly.
🍞 Whole grains are king of the MIND diet, 3 servings a day are required. The B vitamins and antioxidants they contribute reduce inflammation in the brain, likely preventative of cognitive disease.
🫒 Extra-virgin olive oil is also brain-friendly, reducing inflammation and weeding out harmful debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques which may harm brain health. Just 2 tablespoons of the stuff daily should get it done.
🍷 The best part of this diet is red wine! The alcohol in it helps the blood flow, making it less likely to clot, and resveratrol, a polyphenol in red wine, acts as an antioxidant and may be preventative of Alzheimer’s disease. One 5-oz serving a day is appropriate, additional alcohol consumption may be damaging.
❌ Foods to Limit or Avoid:
🥩 The MIND diet limits red or processed meat, cheese, butter, stick margarine, fried food, fast food, pastries, and other sweets. The saturated fat and production of certain substances during cooking in red and processed meat cause inflammation. These meats are also linked to chronic diseases believed to be caused by chronic inflammation.
🧈 The saturated fat in cheese and butter and the trans and omega-6 fats in margarine may increase “bad” cholesterol (low density lipoprotein, better known as LDL), thereby indirectly leading to inflammation. Fried food and fast food also contain these unhealthful types of fat.
🧁 Pastries and other sweets have a high glycemic index, which causes production of the same substances that occur during the cooking of red and processed meats. Also the insulin spike that follows an overload of sugar stimulates the body’s inflammatory processes.
▫️ Bottom Line:
More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of the MIND diet in protecting cognition, however it makes sense to consume the most nutrient-dense foods and abstain from foods that are associated with chronic illness. Plus, it’s a relatively simple and delicious plan to follow!
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