When folks go on diets they typically want to lose weight. If you want to improve your brain health as you become more seasoned, reduce your risk of dementia, or delay its progression if you’ve already been diagnosed, put your mind on a diet!
What you eat has an enormous impact on your mental abilities and on your risk of developing dementia. Research shows that a plant-based diet that contains mostly abundant fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains—with limited amounts of animal products—is best to maintain a healthy mind.
What is the MIND diet plan?
MIND, developed by Rush University nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, ScD, and her colleagues. MIND (an acronym that stands for the Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay) may reduce the risk of developing dementia or slow the decline in brain health through brain-healthy foods that contain essentials like antioxidants, Omega-3s, vitamin E, folate, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
Do these brain-healthy essentials all sound like French to you?
The MIND diet does not involve calorie counting and no particular food groups are kicked to the curb. The easy-to-follow plan isn’t overly restrictive and emphasizes an increased intake of foods with cognitive benefits. As a result, you’re still able to enjoy your favorite meats, sweets, and wines in moderation. Anyone can benefit from the MIND diet due to its overall healthy eating pattern, and there are no negative side effects.
Brain-healthy foods you should be eating
Green leafy vegetables – aim for six servings a week. These include spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, arugula, endive, grape leaves, and romaine lettuce.
Other vegetables – aim for at least one serving a day. These include green or red peppers, squash, carrots, broccoli, celery, potatoes, peas or lima beans, tomatoes or tomato sauce, beans, beets, corn, zucchini, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, coleslaw, or potato salad.
Nuts – aim for five servings a week. Try peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or nut butter.
Berries – aim for two servings a week. Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries. Frozen berries work, too, when berries are out of season.
Beans – have beans during at least three meals a week. Try black, pinto, cannellini, garbanzo, kidney, and lima beans, lentils, edamame, tofu, hummus, or soybeans.
Whole grains – aim for three servings a day. You want dark or whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, wild rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur, oats, or whole-grain cereal.
Fish– eat at least once a week.
Poultry – have for two meals a week.
Olive oil – have this be your primary oil.
Wine – have one glass a day. 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.
Foods you should limit
There are also foods that should be limited in order for the MIND diet to be effective because most of them contain unhealthy saturated and trans fats:
Red meat (steak, ground beef, pork, lamb): no more than 4 servings a week
Butter and margarine: no more than 1 tablespoon daily
Cheese (brie, mozzarella, or cheddar): no more than 1 serving a week
Sweets (cakes, brownies, ice cream): no more than 5 servings a week
Fried or fast food (french fries, chicken nuggets, onion rings, fried chicken, hamburgers): no more than 1 serving per week
In addition to reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the MIND diet can also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging found this way of eating cuts the risk and delayed the progression of the disease among older people.
If you are unable to consume the recommended servings, don’t kick the MIND diet to the curb! Research has shown that following the MIND diet, even moderately, is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you are looking to change the way you eat and zero in on maintaining brain health as you age, the MIND diet is a beneficial and wonderful addition to your lifestyle.
***Please do not make any changes to your diet before consulting your physician.