Wait, the what diet?
MIND stands for 'Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.' It combines aspects of the DASH diet, 'Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension', and the Mediterranean diet, which is based on the habits and lifestyle of traditional Mediterranean cultures. Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions like hypertension, heart attack, and stroke, and they’ve also been associated with improved cognitive function and protection against dementia.
The MIND diet, which was developed by researchers from Rush University Medical Center and a DASH diet expert, has shown to promote healthy brain function while limiting certain foods that have been consistently shown to negatively impact brain health. A study published in the March 2016 edition of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found that participants who stuck to the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s Disease risk by 53%. Those who followed it only part-time still cut their risk by 35%. The longer participants adhered to the diet, the greater the benefits appeared to be!
Working with the concept of a lifestyle approach to preventing disease, the MIND diet involves guidelines for how often to integrate key foods into an overall healthy diet as well as how to limit foods that are not healthy. For example, recommendations to snack on nuts and enjoy a daily salad and glass of wine hardly sound like a hardship. Rather than saying, 'Eat less red meat,' the MIND diet recommends less than four servings per week so those following the diet don’t have to try to figure it out themselves.
Here’s how often you should eat foods from the 10 healthy foods groups:
- Nuts: 5 servings a week
- Beans: 3+ servings a week
- Whole grains: 3+ servings a day
- Green leafy vegetables: 6 servings a week
- Other vegetables: 1+ serving a day
- Berries: 2+ servings a week
- Fish: 1 serving a week
- Poultry (chicken, turkey etc): 2 servings a week
- Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking fat
And here’s how often you should consume other food groups:
- Butter and margarine: -1 tablespoon a day
- Red meat: -4 servings a week
- Fried or fast food: -1 serving a week
- Cheese: -1 serving a week
- Pastries and sweets: -5 servings a week
You’ll notice there are some foods not on the list, such as eggs and other fruits, not because those foods aren’t allowed in the diet, it’s that the MIND diet highlights specific foods previous research has shown to benefit brain health. Berries, for example, are listed because researchers found a lot of research showing that berries (blueberries, in particular), are very potent sources of properties associated with promoting and maintaining good cognitive function.
The MIND diet can be a great, low-stress way to boost your brain health, as it doesn’t require nit-picky measuring, weighing of foods or adhering to unrealistic restrictions. At the very least, you’ll feel great while also doing your brain and body lots of favors!