The MIND diet is designed to prevent dementia and loss of brain function as you age. Combine the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet to create a dietary pattern that specifically focuses on brain health. This article is a detailed guide for beginners, with everything you need to know about the MIND diet and how to follow it to optimally prevent dementia and loss of brain function.
MIND diet to prevent dementia
MIND stands for Mediterranean Intervention-DASH for Neurodegenerative Retardation.
The MIND diet aims to reduce dementia and the decline in brain health that often occurs as people age. It combines aspects of two very popular diets, the Mediterranean diet and the Diet Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
Many experts consider the Mediterranean and DASH diets to be some of the healthiest. Research has shown that they can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several other diseases.
But the 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, the Mediterranean and DASH diets recommend eating lots of fruit. Eating fruit has not been correlated with improved brain function, but eating berries has. Therefore, the MIND diet encourages its followers to eat berries, but does not emphasize fruit consumption in general.
Currently, there are no established guidelines on how to follow the MIND diet. Simply eat more of the 10 foods that the diet encourages you to eat, and eat fewer of the five foods that the diet recommends that you limit yourself.
The next two sections discuss which foods to eat and which foods to avoid in your diet to prevent dementia.
10 foods to eat on the MIND diet
Here are the 10 foods that the MIND diet encourages:
Green leafy vegetables: Aim for six or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked vegetables, and salads.
All other vegetables: Try to eat other vegetables in addition to green leafy vegetables at least once a day. It's best to choose non-starchy vegetables because they will be high in nutrients with a low number of calories.
Berries: Eat berries at least twice a week. Although published research only includes strawberries, you should also consume other berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries for their antioxidant benefits.
Nuts: Aim for five servings of nuts or more each week. The creators of the MIND diet do not specify what type 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: Aim for at least three servings a day. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and 100% whole wheat bread.
Fish: Eat fish at least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans: Include beans in at least four meals each week. This includes all beans, lentils, and soybeans.
Poultry: try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week and make it free-range birds. Keep in mind that fried chicken is not encouraged on the MIND diet.
Wine: aim for no more than one glass a day. Both red and white wine can benefit the brain. However, much research has focused on the red wine compound resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer's disease.
If you can't get your target number of servings, don't give up the MIND diet altogether. Research has shown that following the MIND diet even a moderate amount is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.
When you follow the diet, you can eat more than these 10 foods. However, the more you stick to the diet, the better your results will be.
According to research, consuming more than the 10 recommended foods and fewer foods to avoid has been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and better brain function over time.
5 foods to avoid on the MIND diet
The MIND diet recommends limiting the following five foods:
Butter and margarine: try to eat less than 1 tablespoon (about 14 grams) a day. Instead, try using olive oil as your main cooking fat, and dip your bread in herbed olive oil. Make sure the bread is whole grain organic flour.
Cheese: The MIND diet recommends limiting cheese consumption to less than once a week.
Red meat: aim for no more than three servings per week. This includes all beef, pork, lamb, and products made from these meats.
Fried Food: The MIND diet discourages fried food, especially from fast food restaurants. Limit its consumption to less than once a week, or eliminate it from your diet.
Cakes and sweets: This includes most processed junk food and desserts that you can think of. Ice cream, cookies, brownies, cakes, donuts, candy, and more. Try to limit these to no more than 2 times a week.
Researchers recommend limiting your consumption of these foods because they contain saturated fat and trans fat.
Studies have found that trans fats are clearly associated with all kinds of diseases, including heart disease and even Alzheimer's disease. However, the health effects of saturated fat are widely debated in the world of nutrition.
Although the research on saturated fat and heart disease may be inconclusive and highly controversial, animal research and observational studies in humans suggest that consuming excess saturated fat is associated with poor brain health.
The MIND diet can decrease oxidative stress and inflammation
Current research on the MIND diet has not been able to show exactly how it works. However, the scientists who created the diet believe that it may work by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals accumulate in the body in large quantities. This often causes damage to cells. The brain is especially vulnerable to this type of damage.
Inflammation is your body's natural response to injury and infection. But if not properly regulated, inflammation can also be detrimental and contribute to many chronic diseases.
Together, oxidative stress and inflammation can be quite damaging to the brain. In recent years, they have been the 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 MIND diet can reduce harmful beta amyloid proteins
Researchers also believe that the MIND diet may benefit the brain by reducing potentially harmful beta-amyloid proteins.
Amyloid beta proteins are protein fragments that are found naturally in the body.
However, they can accumulate and form plaques that build up in the brain, disrupting communication between brain cells and eventually leading to brain cell death.
In fact, many scientists believe that these plaques are one of the main causes of Alzheimer's disease.
Weekly diet meal plan to prevent dementia
Making diet meals to prevent Alzheimer's doesn't have to be complicated.
Center your meals around the 10 foods and food groups that are recommended in the diet, and try to stay away from the five foods that should be limited.
Here's a seven-day meal plan to get you started:
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with raspberries, topped with sliced almonds.
Lunch: Mediterranean salad with olive oil based dressing, grilled chicken, whole wheat pita.
Dinner: Burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, grilled chicken, salsa, and guacamole.
Breakfast: wheat toast with almond butter, scrambled eggs.
Breakfast: oatmeal (left overnight) with strawberries.
Lunch: fish tacos in whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, pinto beans.
Dinner: Chicken gyro in whole wheat pita, cucumber and tomato salad.
Breakfast: spinach frittata, sliced apple and peanut butter.
Lunch: tuna salad sandwich on wheat bread, plus carrots and celery with hummus.
Dinner: chicken curry, brown rice, lentils.
You can have a glass of wine with every dinner to meet the recommendations of the MIND diet. Walnuts can also be a great snack.
Most of the salad dressings you find in the store are not made primarily with olive oil, but you can easily make your own salad dressing at home.
To make a simple balsamic vinaigrette, combine three parts of extra virgin olive oil with one part of balsamic vinegar. Add some Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, then mix well.
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