What Is the MIND Diet?

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet in short, is a diet aimed at reducing dementia and declining brain health as people age. This diet is a mix of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet. Experts view these diets as being the healthiest diets.

This claim is substantiated by research that has indicated the benefits of these diets, which includes lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease, but also diabetes and other illnesses.

However, researchers has found that combining the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet could also be beneficial to help improve brain function and as a prevention measure against dementia. The MIND diet does have a mantra: eat more of the ten foods allowed and eat less of the five foods you should not.

The 10 foods to consume on the MIND diet

Following the MIND diet, you should the 10 foods listed below. The better you stick to the diet, the better your results will be. But if you cannot eat all the servings listed, then it is still fine as following this diet even in a moderate way could reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The 10 foods that you are encouraged to eat on the MIND diet are:

Leafy, green vegetables, like kale, spinach, salads and cooked greens. You should aim for six or more serving per week. All additional vegetables. You should also eat other vegetables with your green leafy vegetables, but the best are non-starchy vegetables for they have many nutrients that is low in calories.

You should eat berries, like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, at least twice a week as they offer great antioxidant benefits.

You should aim for at least five servings of nuts per week. The type of nuts are not declared by the developers of the MIND diet, but try a mix, ideally almonds and walnuts as they have less fat.

Olive oil should be used as your main cooking oil.

Eat at least three severing’s of whole grains, like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread, each day.

Once a week you should eat fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

You should add beans, including lentils and soybeans, to four of your weekly meals.

You should eat poultry like chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Fried chicken is not allowed though.

Red and white wine are allowed on this diet. In fact, they state you should drink at least one glass of vino a day. The best type to drink is red, as it contains resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The five foods you should avoid on the MIND Diet

The foods that should be limited are those high in saturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats have been found to be linked to heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

The MIND diet recommends regulating the following five foods:

Butter and margarine is restricted to less than one tablespoon a day. You should rather use olive oil as the primary cooking fat, and dipping your bread in olive oil with herbs.

On this diet, cheeses should be limited to less than once per week.

You should not eat more than three servings of red meat, like beef, lamb, or pork, per week.

All fried food are not encouraged on this diet and are limited to less than once a week.

Processed junk food, including desserts like ice cream, cookies, brownies, cakes, donuts, and candy, should be limited to less than four times a week.

Some of the benefits of the MIND diet

Oxidative stress and inflammation could be reduced by following the MIND diet

Although not proven, oxidative stress and inflammation are reduced by this diet. Oxidative stress happens when unbalanced molecules termed free radicals mount up in the body in large numbers, and damages the cells. The brain is particularly exposed to this type of harm. Inflammation is a natural defense by your body to deal with an infection or injury. If not properly regulated then inflammation can lead to chronic diseases.

However, together oxidative stress and inflammation can be harmful to the brain. But the MIND diet has shown effect of lowering levels of oxidative stress and inflammation as this diet have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. For instance, the berries, which are the foods you should eat, are sources of antioxidants, and olive oil is a source of vitamin E. These together with green leafy vegetables and nuts protects the brain from oxidative stress. Plus, fatty fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which lowers inflammation in the brain, but also slows down loss of brain function.

Reducing harmful beta-amyloid proteins with the MIND diet

Another benefit of the MIND diet is the reduction of beta-amyloid proteins. These proteins are protein fragments found in the body. But they build-up and develops into layers on the brain that can disturb communication among brain cells and finally leading to brain cell death. Scientists believe it is these layers that are the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. But the MIND diet, which is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and low in saturated fats and trans fats, could reduce the development of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain and limit the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Closing remarks

The MIND diet is relatively new, as it was first published in 2015. Nevertheless, the research that has spread from that publication has already been remarkable, and show potential benefits to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that follow the diet.

With a focus on vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, legumes, poultry and wine, all rich in nutrients that promote good brain health by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation and the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.

More research is needed particularly that can show cause and effect, rather than just associations. But till then, the MIND diet is a good approach to follow to maintaining brain health as you age.