The MIND diet is meant for a healthy brain function as you age and it reduces the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. If you are looking forward to improve your brain’s health, this article presents a detailed MIND Diet Guide to begin and sustain this diet. It is based on two other popular healthy diet plans, “The Mediterranean Diet” and “The DASH Diet”. The first official paper on MIND diet was published in 2015.
The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to improve cardiovascular function. It is based on the eating patterns of people who live in the Mediterranean countries. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet plan was created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to help reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.
This article presents detailed guide for beginners, with everything one needs to know about the MIND diet and also how to follow it.
A Beginner’s MIND Diet Guide
“MIND” is “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.”
The MIND diet aims to reduce dementia and the decline in brain health that often occurs as people get older.
Many experts regard the Mediterranean and DASH diet, as two of the healthiest diet options. Research has shown that these diets can lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several other diseases.
But researchers aimed to create a diet, specifically to help improve brain function and prevent dementia.
To do this, they combined foods both from the Mediterranean and DASH diets that had been shown to benefit brain health.
For example, the Mediterranean and DASH diets both recommend eating a good amount of fruits. Fruit intake in general has been linked with improved brain function. For this, berries in particular are supported by the strongest evidence.
Thus, the MIND diet encourages eating all berries but does not emphasize much on consuming fruit in general.
Currently, there are no set guidelines on how to exactly follow the MIND diet. You can simply eat more of the 10 recommended foods and eat less of the 5 limited foods.
MIND Diet Food Guide
It’s quite simple and easy to follow this diet as this diet’s food options are easily accessible.
“The focus is on increasing intake of high-nutrient foods, like vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains, fish and poultry while minimizing high-sodium foods, meats, fried foods, pastries and sweets,” says Catherine Christie, Ph.D., a registered dietitian nutritionist and associate dean of the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, the MIND diet limits foods high in saturated fats (including cheese).
- Green, leafy vegetables like Spinach, kale, arugula, collard greens, Swiss chard and turnip greens contain folate, lutein, vitamin E, beta-carotene and other nutrients that improve cognition, especially as people get older. It’s recommended to have at least six servings of green, leafy veggies a week. The cooked form is better than the raw form if the concern is to decrease the oxalate content, in particular for people prone to kidney stones & arthritis.
- Other vegetables: Try to have some other vegetable in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once everyday. It’s better to choose non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, okra or squash. This is because non starchy vegetables provide a lot of nutrients for a lower number of calories.
Berries are the most favorite of MIND Diet
- Berries are a very specific feature of this diet. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and acai berries are packed with antioxidants and health-promoting phytochemicals which work well at improving brain health as well as your physical health. Berries are recommended at least twice every week.
- Nuts are a well tried food to improve brain function. Nuts are a rich source of vitamin E, B vitamins, healthy fats, as well as minerals (such as magnesium, potassium and calcium). The MIND diet recommends having at least five servings of nuts every week. The MIND diet does not specify about what kind of nuts to consume, but it is ideal to vary the type of nuts you eat to obtain a variety of nutrients. Also do not consume the processed nuts. Go for the unsalted and unprocessed ones. Also it is good to soak nuts for about 5 to 8 hours to enhance absorption.
- Olive oil should be used as the main cooking oil. It is an excellent cooking oil and is also one of the healthiest oils. Quality extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat which retains its beneficial qualities during cooking. The downside is that overheating can adversely impact its flavor. However, olive oil is otherwise well resistant to heat and doesn’t oxidize or turn rancid during cooking.
- Whole grains should be consumed in three servings daily. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta or 100% whole wheat bread.
- Fish should be taken at least once every week. It is good to have fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel for their good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Beans should be included in at least four meals every week. It includes all beans, lentils, and soybeans. Apart from being a solid source of protein, beans and other legumes are an excellent source of B vitamins, which promote brain health.
- Poultry: Try to have chicken or turkey at least twice every week. Fried chicken should be avoided.
- Wine consumed in moderate amounts can improve brain function as shown by research. One can have no more than one glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit brain function.
If you’re unable to consume the recommended number of servings, do not quit the MIND diet altogether for this reason. Research has shown that following the MIND diet even in moderate amounts is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment.
When being on this diet, one can have more than just these 10 foods. However, the more rigidly you stick to the diet, the better results you may achieve.
According to research, eating more of the 10 recommended foods of this diet and eating less of the limited foods is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and better brain function over time.
5 foods to avoid on MIND Diet Guide
The MIND diet recommends limiting the following five foods:
- Butter and margarine: Try to eat less than 1 tbs(about 14 grams) daily. Instead, try using olive oil as the primary cooking fat.
- Cheese: The MIND diet recommends eating cheese strictly not more than once per week.
- Red meat: Try to stick to no more than three servings per week. This category includes beef, pork, lamb, and processed products made from these meats.
- Fried food: The MIND diet highly limits fried food, especially the kind from fast-food restaurants. Limit the fried food consumption to less than once per week.
- Pastries and sweets: This includes all processed snack foods and desserts like ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, doughnuts, candy, and a lot many more. Try to limit these to a very small serving of no more than four times per week.
Researchers encourage limiting the consumption of these foods because they contain saturated fats. As per research, high fat and sugar content consumption changes our brain.
Animal research & human observational studies suggest that consuming saturated fats in excess is associated with poor brain and heart health.
Studies have proved that trans fats are clearly associated with all sorts of diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Partially hydrogenated oils which are the major source of trans fats in food, have been banned by the FDA since 2020. They’re still naturally found in fried foods, dairy, or red meat, although in much less amounts. Foods like margarine, pastries, and sweets are no longer a major source.
MIND Diet Functioning Guide
MIND diet may decrease oxidative stress and inflammation
The current research on MIND diet has not been able to determine exactly how this diet works to improve brain function. However, scientific observation says that it may work by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. These two factors are the two major reasons to invite health downfall in all forms.
Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals accumulate in our body. The accumulated free radicals hold a good potential to cause cell damage. The brain is particularly vulnerable to this type of damage.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to fight injury and infection. But if it’s not properly regulated, inflammation can be pretty harmful and contribute to a host of chronic diseases.
Together, oxidative stress and inflammation can be quite detrimental to brain health. These two factors are currently the prime focus of some interventions to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Following the Mediterranean and DASH diets has been associated with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation.
The antioxidant content of berries and the vitamin E of olive oil, green leafy vegetables, and nuts are thought to benefit brain function by protecting the brain from oxidative stress. To reap the maximum vitamin E benefits, overheating should be avoided.
Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids of fatty fish are well proven for their ability to lower inflammation in brain and have been associated with slower loss of brain function.
MIND Diet And Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe that the MIND diet may benefit brain health by reducing potentially harmful beta-amyloid proteins.
Beta-amyloid proteins are protein fragments which are found naturally in our body.
However, they have a tendency to accumulate and form plaques that build up in brain. The plaque build up disrupts communication between brain cells and eventually leads to brain cell death.
Many scientists believe that these plaques are one of the primary causes of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that the antioxidants found in many MIND diet foods may help prevent the formation of these beta-amyloid plaques in brain.
Additionally, the MIND diet limits foods that contain saturated fats and trans fats, which studies have shown can increase beta-amyloid protein levels in mice brain.
Consumption of these fats is highly associated with a doubled risk of development of Alzheimer’s disease, as shown by human observational studies.
The research so far has not been able to determine the direct cause and effect relation. Higher quality, controlled studies are needed to discover exactly how the MIND diet benefits brain health.
Ever since its introduction in 2015, a good amount of research has been done on MIND diet and is still under progress.
A 2021 study found that the MIND diet was able to slow down the rate of cognitive decline in people who had experienced a stroke.
Another 2022 study found that middle-aged adults who closely adhered to the MIND diet had faster information processing speeds than the ones who did not closely follow the diet.
A 2022 randomized clinical trial was conducted on 50 healthy obese women. It found that those who followed a calorie-restricted MIND diet for 3 months had higher mental scores for working memory, verbal recognition memory, and attention, in comparison to calorie-restricted control group.
The MIND diet combines the DASH and Mediterranean diets to create a diet aimed at reducing the risk of dementia and the decline in brain health that people often experience as they age.
It encourages consuming vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish, beans, poultry, and wine. These nutrient rich foods promote brain health, possibly by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, and the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.
The MIND diet encourages limiting butter, margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, pastries, and sweets because they contain large amounts of saturated fat and trans fat.