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MIND Diet: Foods to Limit

Content by: Jamie Rinaldi RD LD

A short list of foods to avoid or limit in order to protect cognitive health.

MIND Diet: Foods to Limit


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Most of the MIND diet series is about what we want people to eat, however we do need to touch on what to limit or avoid. Keep reading for the rundown on them, although the jury is still out on some!

The MIND diet recommends limiting red and processed meats to no more than 15 ounces per week. This includes beef, pork products, lamb, sausage, and luncheon meats such as bologna and salami. The saturated fats and substances produced during cooking in these meat products have been associated with inflammation, which we know is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have linked daily consumption of processed meats, cooked or not, to a higher incidence of dementia. Whether or not unprocessed red meat is truly harmful is a controversial subject among researchers, and a finite conclusion is unlikely to be made any time soon.

Cheese is another disputable food worth questioning. At its origin, the MIND diet advised against more than 2 ounces of full fat cheese a week. Again, saturated fat was considered the culprit in causing inflammation, leading to a number of chronic health conditions. However, more recent research suggests the saturated fats in dairy products are health-protective.

Butter and stick margarine (yikes! Stick margarine still exists?) are not advisable for supporting brain health. Whether butter is that harmful is debatable - as mentioned above, the saturated fats in dairy foods may actually help prevent disease. However, stick margarine is most certainly a no-go! Omega-6 fats are known to increase the bad cholesterol and increase inflammation. Fortunately, the artificial production of harmful trans fats that used to fill margarine has been banned.

It’s no secret that fried foods and typical fast foods (onion rings, breaded fish and chicken sandwiches, etc.) do not wear a health halo. Harmful saturated fats are the culprit. And then we have the category of pastries and other sweets, like doughnuts, Danishes, candies, croissants, and snack cakes. The insulin spike due to the sugar content stimulates inflammation, and there may be other not-so-good-for-you ingredients, such as lard.

The silver lining of the MIND diet is that the list of recommended foods to eat far outweighs those to limit or avoid!

Quick tips!
1. Until the research is more clear, advise consumption of more white meat poultry, seafood, and lean meats like bison rather than fatty red meat.
2. Remind clients about buttery spreads made with olive or canola oil, which are just as tasty as butter and more acceptable among health experts.
3. Focus more on foods to consume rather than those to avoid.

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