The MIND diet aims to reduce dementia and the decline in brain health that often occurs as people get older. MIND stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It combines aspects of two very popular diets, the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
Research has shown these two diets can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes mellitus and several other diseases. But researchers wanted to create a diet specifically to help improve brain function and prevent dementia.
To do this, they combined foods from the Mediterranean and DASH diets that had been shown to benefit brain health.
For example, both the Mediterranean and DASH diets recommend eating a lot of fruit. Fruit intake has not been associated with improved brain function, but eating berries has been. Thus, the MIND diet encourages its followers to eat berries, but does not emphasize consuming fruit in general.
Currently, there are no set guidelines for how to follow the MIND diet. Simply eat more of the 10 foods the diet encourages you to eat and eat less of the five foods the diet recommends you limit.
Here are the 10 foods the MIND diet encourages:
Green, leafy vegetables: Six or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens and salads.
All other vegetables: At least once a day. It is best to choose non-starchy vegetables because they have a lot of nutrients with a low number of calories.
Berries: At least twice a week. Although the published research only includes strawberries, you should also consume other berries like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for their antioxidant benefits.
Nuts: Five servings of nuts or more each week. The creators of the MIND diet do not specify what kind of nuts to consume, but it is probably best to vary the type of nuts you eat to obtain a variety of nutrients.
Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
Whole grains: At least three servings daily. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread.
Fish: At least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans: Include beans in at least four meals every week. This includes all beans, lentils and soybeans.
Poultry: Chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Note that fried chicken is not encouraged on the MIND diet.
Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit the brain. However, much research has focused on the red wine compound resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Research has shown that following the MIND diet even a moderate amount is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the more you stick to the diet, the better your results may be with having a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and better brain function over time.
On the other hand, the MIND diet recommends limiting the following five foods because they contain saturated fats and trans fats:
Butter and margarine: Try to eat less than 1 tablespoon daily. Instead, try using olive oil as your primary cooking fat, and dipping your bread in olive oil with herbs.
Cheese: Limit your cheese consumption to less than once per week.
Red meat: Aim for no more than three servings each week. This includes all beef, pork, lamb and products made from these meats.
Fried food: Limit your consumption to less than once per week, especially the kind from fast-food restaurants.
Pastries and sweets: No more than four times a week. This includes most processed junk food and desserts, like ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, donuts, candy and more.
The MIND diet has not been around very long. The first official paper on the diet was published in 2015.
However, two observational studies on the MIND diet have shown very promising results. But since both these studies were observational, meaning they cannot prove cause and effect, they can only detect associations.
Therefore, I cannot say for sure that the MIND diet caused the reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease or the slower brain decline. However, a controlled study on the effects of the MIND diet has begun. While that study will not be completed for several years, this is a big step toward determining if the MIND diet directly benefits brain function.
With a bit of planning, the guidelines for the MIND diet can fit into the lifestyle of most people without too much sacrifice. Like moderate exercise, adequate rest and weight management, diet considerations like these have increasing importance as we all hope to live long and prosper.