The MIND diet is essentially a way of eating to optimize brain health as you age. It combines the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet, creating a dietary plan that focuses on nutrients for the brain. This article details the MIND diet for beginners, highlighting the key components and how you can follow it.
What Is The MIND Diet?
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The risk of dementia and overall brain decline increases with age, but the MIND diet aims to help reduce the risk or prevent cognitive decline. The reason that the MIND diet fuses the Mediterranean and DASH diets is because researchers believe them to be the healthiest diets today. According to research, both diets have demonstrated an ability to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of several diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The reason behind developing the MIND diet was to help improve brain function and reduce dementia risk. While developing this diet, researchers took note of which foods from the Mediterranean and DASH diets had proven to benefit the brain. Fruit intake, for example, helps to improve brain function, with a lot of evidence supporting the consumption of berries. The MIND diet doesn’t just place an emphasis on fruit; rather, it encourages the consumption of vegetables, nuts, heart-healthy oils, whole grains, fish, beans, and a little wine for optimal brain health.
The 10 Foods That The MIND Diet Encourages
- Green leafy vegetables: Aim for six or more servings of leafy greens like kale, spinach, cooked collards, cabbage, and salads per week.
- Other vegetables: Try to eat other vegetables with your leafy greens at least once per day. Researchers note that non-starchy vegetables are better because they provide more nutrients and fewer calories.
- Nuts: Although the creators of the MIND diet don’t specify which nuts to consume, they suggest that you consume five to six servings of nuts per week. Try to vary your intake of nuts, such as cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
- Beans: Include beans in your meals at least four times per week, from lentils and black beans to kidney beans and chickpeas.
- Berries: Eat at least two servings of berries per week. You can choose from blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries, all of which exhibit antioxidant activity.
- Olive oil: Try to prioritize olive oil as your primary cooking oil and ditch vegetable, soybean, or canola oils. Olive oil has been proven to improve heart health, and you can click here for more information.
- Poultry: Although you don’t have to eat poultry, you can eat it twice per week on the MIND diet. If you do eat poultry, avoid the factory farmed poultry options and opt for organic varieties.
- Whole grains: Choose from oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, barley, and more at least three times per day! These provide essential nutrients that optimize brain health.
- Wine: Don’t chug-a-lug a bottle of wine every night! Instead, one small glass of red or white wine daily may have positive cognitive benefits.
- Fish: Wild caught fish, not farmed fish, is rich in a variety of nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Aim to consume fish like tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, or mackerel at least once per week.
Foods To Limit On The MIND Diet
- Cheese: Although you can consume cheese during the MIND diet, health experts don’t encourage the consumption of cheese more than one time per week.
- Pastries and sweets: This category includes processed snacks, packaged desserts, ice cream, cookies, brownies, cakes, donuts, candy, and more. Try to avoid these at all costs, but once or twice a week will not completely derail your diet.
- Butter and margarine: Do not consume more than one tablespoon (14 grams) of butter or margarine per day. It is better to use olive oil as your primary cooking oil.
- Red meat: Do not consume more than three servings of red meat per week. This category includes pork, lamb, and all beef, or products made from these meats.
- Fried food: Please avoid fried foods while following the MIND diet, especially if the fried food is from restaurants.
The reason that you should limit your consumption of the above foods is because they contain saturated or trans fats. According to research studies, trans fats increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Partially hydrogenated oils contain a lot of trans fats, and they were banned by the FDA in 2020. They still exist in certain fried foods, but in much lower quantities.
Following the MIND diet may lead to numerous health benefits, including a reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to the onset of many chronic diseases, and inflammation is detrimental to your brain. The MIND diet may also reduce harmful beta-amyloid proteins, which are potentially harmful to the brain. These proteins exist naturally in the body, but they can accumulate and form plaques in the brain, which can disrupt communication between brain cells.