Feeding the Brain: The MIND Diet
What is the MIND Diet?
- The Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet patterns are both associated with healthy aging and reduced risk of chronic age-related diseases.
- Combining both patterns also helps to maintain healthy brain function with aging. And, it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease, or slow its progression.
- Researchers studied the effects of a diet pattern they called MIND (short for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), and how it impacts cognitive decline and risk of developing Alzheimer disease.1,2They found:
- Closely following the MIND dietary pattern reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer disease by 53%.
- Following the MIND pattern some of the time, still resulted in a 35% reduced risk.
- Decreased risk of cognitive decline after stroke for patients following the MIND diet.4
- Greater adherence to the MIND diet was associated with less depression and psychological stress.5
What Goes in the Grocery Cart?
The MIND diet is appealing to patients because it’s flexible and easy to follow. It focuses on 10 foods to eat more often, and 5 foods to eat less often. For many, the biggest challenge is learning ways to eat more of the MIND foods. Here is the list and some practical suggestions.
Foods to eat regularly:
- Leafy greens:like kale, spinach, arugula, bok choy, and other greens. Explore ways to eat these in both raw and cooked forms like salads and stir-fries. Also, note that the carotenoid compounds are better absorbed when consumed with olive oil, nuts, seeds, or avocados.
- Berries:especially strawberries and blueberries, although blackberries, raspberries and even cranberries provide many benefits as well. Berries are typical for breakfast or dessert, but they can also be added to leafy green salads.
- All vegetables: explore ways to incorporate more carrots, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes, each week. Soups and stews are an easy way to get variety in every bite.
- Fish: especially salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel which are high in omega-3 fats.
- Poultry: Skinless chicken or turkey, dark or white meat – but not fried.
- Whole grains: Help patients step out of the whole-wheat bread box, and try farro, freekeh, wheat berries, wild rice, or quinoa – perhaps incorporated into a grain and vegetable salad, instead.
- Nuts: especially walnuts, almonds, and pecans. All nuts have different health benefits. One handful each day as a snack or sprinkled over oats or a salad is all that’s needed.
- Beans or legumes:Each week include a few half-cup servings of lentils, chickpeas, black, kidney, pinto, or cannellini beans, instead of meat, as a side dish, mixed into soups or stews or as a vegetable dip.
- Olive oil:Use it not only in salads but also for sautéing and as a primary cooking oil.
- Wine:There is more research on resveratrol, the antioxidant found primarily in red wine, but moderate intake of red or white wine may have benefits for the brain.
Foods to Limit:
- Butter, margarine: try limiting to 1 TB or less per day
- Cheese: try limiting to 1-2 servings per week
- Red meat,including beef, pork and lamb
- Fried food especially those from fast food and other restaurants
- Pastries and sweets, including ice cream, desserts, cookies, sodas or other sweetened beverages
- Each food on the brain-healthy list contributes certain compounds and nutrients that when isolated, have been shown to improve brain health. Together, these nutrients likely have a synergistic effect.
- Some of the important compounds in the brain-healthy foods include carotenes like lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene in plant foods, which reduce damage from harmful free radical compounds in the brain. Fish is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados are rich in unsaturated fat which helps to reduce inflammation. Legumes, whole grains and nuts contain magnesium which helps to regulate glucose and serotonin (the feel-good hormone) in the brain.
- The MIND diet is an overall eating pattern – not a strict diet. Patients don’t have to follow it exactly or monitor most portions. Instead, they should identify ways to eat more of the brain-healthy foods, and less of the brain-unhealthy foods over time.
Adapted from an article by Anne Danahy MS RDN, nutrition 411.com
References available at nutrition411.com