MIND diet

Can The MIND Diet Keep Your Brain Sharp?

If you try to keep up with the latest healthy diet trends, you’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy DASH diet. According to Livestrong, new research claims that the ideal diet for keeping maximum brain function is a hybrid of the two, dubbed the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet for short. Sure, you need to go easy on the salt, but on the good side, bring on the wine.

The MIND Diet Basics

Here are the basic food principles you need to follow if you want to try the MIND diet, starting with the foods you want to increase in your diet:

  • Fish – at least once a week
  • Poultry – a minimum of twice weekly
  • Green Leafy Vegetables – at least six servings per week
  • Other Vegetables – at least one serving daily
  • Nuts – a minimum of five servings weekly
  • Berries – at least twice a week
  • Beans – a minimum of three times weekly
  • Whole Grains – three or more servings daily
  • Olive Oil – your primary cooking oil
  • Wine — one glass every day

That’s the carrot, metaphorically speaking, but here’s the stick. These foods should be kept to a minimum or avoided as much as possible:

  • Red Meat
  • Fried Food
  • Fast Food
  • Butter/Margarine
  • Cheese
  • Sweets

How The MIND Diet Improves Health

Because the MIND diet is low in sodium but rich in fiber and unsaturated fats, it reduces heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and the bad kind of cholesterol, LDL. Now studies suggest that the same approach can benefit the brain as well as the heart, according to Maggie Moon, M.S., RDN, and author of The Elimination Diet Workbook: A Personal Approach to Determining Your Food Allergies.

“A small number of recent high-quality studies suggest key components of the Mediterranean diet — that is, eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and seafood — lowered the risk of cognitive impairment, dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease in adults.”

brain scans
[Image by iStock]

How The MIND Diet Helps The Brain As Well As The Heart

One study by Rush University showed a remarkable difference between those who followed the MIND diet and those who didn’t. Those who adhered to the MIND diet showed brain function approximately 7.5 years younger than those on a different diet. Those statistics took into consideration some other factors that can contribute to cognitive declines, such as physical activity and education levels. In addition, those following the MIND diet cut their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 53 percent. Even those who only partially follow the diet can reap rewards of up to a 35 percent reduction in their chance of developing Alzheimer’s.


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Some of the mental benefits likely come from the inclusion of fish in the diet, as the omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to prevent the formation of the plaque buildup in the brain that defines Alzheimer’s disease. Moon noted that this diet shouldn’t be too hard to follow, especially if you already have fairly good eating habits in place.

“Specific nutrients, such as omega-3s, vitamin E, folate, carotenoids, and an array of antioxidants, may help explain how eating certain foods is good for brain health, but ultimately it’s about adopting a habit of eating whole foods in balanced patterns.”

healthy diet choices on the MIND diet
[Image by iStock]

In other words, use a little common sense when it comes to what you eat.

The MIND diet was developed as a collaborative effort by researchers at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard School of Public Health.

[Featured Image by iStock]

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