The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It stands for – Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet is designed to slow brain decline or prevent it outright.
Originally, the MIND diet was designed to boost brain health for elderly people. It was later retargeted to include octogenarians recovering from stroke. Followed faithfully, the diet decreases the effects of aging on the brain, like dementia.
Dementia is a condition that commonly afflicts elderly people that presents with memory loss as well as language and problem-solving difficulties. The most common cause of the condition is Alzheimer’s disease.
According to studies, the MIND diet has noted benefits for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Study results showed the MIND diet lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent for people who followed it closely and by 35 percent for those who followed it only casually.
The MIND diet also lowers blood pressure, in the process decreasing the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. However, it is with dementia that it has been proven to be particularly helpful.
The MIND diet prioritizes brain-healthy foods
The MIND diet recommends a list of brain-healthy foods and provides serving recommendations for each. Here is the list of foods the diet recommends:
Green leafy vegetables - These can be consumed as frequently as you would like. In fact, you are advised to eat not less than 6 servings a week.
Non-starchy vegetables. This food group is rich in nutrients and low in calories, which helps to keep your weight in check.
Berries, which are to be taken twice a week. There is strong evidence that strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and other berry fruits can slow aging on the brain, among other brain health benefits.Berries are also rich in anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. They decrease the accumulation of free radicals in the body thereby reducing the oxidative stress and inflammation that often leads to chronic illnesses.
Nuts, for which you need 5 servings per week.
Olive oil, which also protects against heart disease, prevents strokes, has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and is a rich source of antioxidants. To ensure you are getting enough of the benefits, substitute your cooking oil with olive oil.
Whole grains, which include oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta/bread.
Fish, particularly salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel, species that are rich in vitamin B12 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation in the body and slow down the loss of brain function.
These fish also limit the formation of harmful beta-amyloid plaque in the brain that is characteristically found in Alzheimer’s disease. They also help in clearing the plaques formed in between the neurons that disrupt the processes of communication. One serving per week is the recommendation for fish.
Beans, including beans, lentils, and soya. Stick to five servings per week.
Poultry, for which two servings per week is about right. But be sure to avoid fried poultry.
Wine. Red and white wine, both rich in resveratrol, which protects against Alzheimer’s are your best choices. The advice is not to binge. A glass a day for women and two for men should be OK.
Avoid these foods to get the full brain health benefits of the MIND diet
The MIND diet advises against specific foods. The following food groups should be taken in moderation:
Pastries and sweets
Red meat. Keep the servings to less than four a week
Saturated fats in particular have a detrimental effect on brain health. The excess fats may lead to the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain.
Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s & dementia?: the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. 2015;11(9):1007-1014. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2014.11.009.