Feed Your Brain With the MIND Diet

healthy eating

As the name suggests, this diet is meant to combat dementia and the decline of brain function as a result of aging. The diet is a result of blending two diets you may have heard of: Mediterranean and DASH diets. The Mediterranean diet is touted as the healthiest general diet whereas the DASH diet, often seen as #2, is the healthiest diet that focuses on reducing cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

The Mind Behind MIND

Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, wanted to reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s by promoting a diet based on brain-boosting foods. The National Institute of Aging decided to fund her study and thus the MIND Diet was born.

Morris says she chose to use a mix of the Mediterranean and DASH diets not just because they are healthy, but they are well known and easy to follow.  The basics of the diet have users eating 10 foods daily while avoiding 5. The healthy foods that should be eaten every day are:

  1. Berries: Although research is most extensive on strawberries, studies show a mix of berries can be very healthy. Morris believes blueberries are one of the best berries to eat because of their antioxidant properties and fiber content.
  2. Vegetables: Everyone knows how healthy vegetables are, so eat them!
  3. Green Leafy Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables are known to provide a different array of health benefits including improving brain function and fighting inflammation.
  4. Nuts: It’s best to consume at least a serving of nuts daily. Be careful to not go overboard as fats and calories can add up quickly with nuts. Consume a variety of nuts to get the most of their health benefits.
  5. Olive oil: Only use olive oil for cooking. Any other oil is detrimental to health and will leave you feeling heavy. A little olive oil every day provides a good source of healthy fats.
  6. Beans: Full of protein and fiber, beans are an excellent addition to any meal. They will help fill you up and keep you full.
  7. Whole grains: It’s recommended to have at least three servings of whole grains a day. Oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice are perfect examples of whole grains.
  8. Poultry: Red meat and processed meat is terrible for your health. Stick with chicken and turkey and your body will love you for it.
  9. Fish: Fish is another great alternative to red meat. It’s advised to eat a little less fish compared to poultry because of mercury levels in fish.
  10. Wine: A small glass of wine every day can actually improve brain function and has been found to be a healthy addition to the diet.

There are five foods to be avoided are:

  1. Fried food
  2. Red Meat
  3. Cheese
  4. Butter
  5. Pastries/Sweets

Lastly, there are ten rules to adhere to for the diet:

  1. Eat at least three servings of whole grains daily
  2. Eat at least one salad daily
  3. Eat one other vegetable daily
  4. Snack on nuts daily
  5. Eat beans every other day
  6. Eat poultry and berries at least twice a week
  7. Eat fish at least once a week
  8. Eat less than 1 tablespoon of butter daily
  9. One serving of unhealthy food is allowed a week
  10. Drink a glass of wine every night

Benefits

According to the results of the study, how much the diet has an effect depends on how well people followed it. For those who meticulously followed the diet, the risk of Alzheimer’s was reduced by as much as 53%. Those who moderately followed the diet reduced their risk by 35%. It pays off to follow the diet even if you can’t meticulously follow it.

The results also show that time on the diet plays a factor. Those who followed the diet longer better protected themselves from the disease. So now is the best time to start switching up our diets.

It’s important to note that while those who moderately follow the MIND diet receive a substantial benefit, it’s not the same for other diets. Morris’ team conducted research on the Mediterranean and DASH diets alone and the results were surprising.

Participants that meticulously followed the Mediterranean diet received a 54% reduction in Alzheimers while DASH followers received a 39% reduction. However, participants who moderately followed either diet received little to no benefit at all.  This is the power of the MIND diet.

Morris hopes that this will motivate people to start changing their eating habits to align with the MIND diet. She knows many people can’t follow a diet perfectly because of their daily life, so the creation of the MIND diet is perfect for everyone.

Even if the MIND diet doesn’t appeal to you, incorporating some of its key points will provide you with a lifelong benefit of peace of mind.  

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