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The MIND Diet: A Beginner's Guide

Health & Wellness
Jan 17, 2022

The MIND Diet: A Beginner's Guide

The MIND diet is an important tool for protecting your brain health as you age. Following the diet closely may help reduce the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, by up to 53%. Gradually making changes to your eating habits and replacing unhealthy foods with healthy alternatives is the best way to follow the MIND diet. Read on to learn more about this healthy diet and how to follow it.

What is the MIND Diet?

The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, which combines the diet components of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet. The MIND diet was created by Dr Martha Clare Morris, who is the director of the Rush University Medical Center's Section of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology. The six key components to following the MIND diet are as follows:

  • Eating a lot of vegetables and fruits
  • Eating brain-healthy foods such as nuts and beans
  • Drinking wine in moderation and not more than one glass per day
  • Eating poultry and fish instead of red meat
  • Replacing unhealthy fats with healthier options like olive oil
  • Snacking on healthy foods such as whole grain crackers and cheese

Following the MIND diet can provide many benefits for brain health. Some studies have shown that the MIND diet can help improve memory and cognitive function in older adults. The diet may also help protect against Alzheimer's disease and other conditions that cause age-related cognitive decline.

The MIND diet emphasises the importance of snacking on healthy food items to keep your brain sharp. Sticking to the five recommended snack groups—whole grains, fruit, nuts and beans, dairy products, and fish and poultry—can boost optimal brain health. People who eat this way show improvements in memory and other cognitive skills compared with those who do not follow the MIND diet closely. 

How Does the MIND Diet Work?

The MIND diet focuses on improving cognitive health by increasing dietary intake of brain-friendly foods such as berries, olive oil, nuts, black beans, pinto beans and fatty fish that are bursting with omega-3 fats. It also includes foods that have been shown to protect the brain from Alzheimer's disease, such as green leafy vegetables and whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice.

How does the MIND diet work?Source: DiaMedical USA

The goal is to eat at least three servings of whole grains, five servings of leafy vegetables, and one serving of oily fish every day. You can also include two servings of fruit per day and one serving of cheese. Sticking to these types of foods and avoiding unhealthy ones, such as processed meats, red meat, butter and fried food, is key to improving cognitive scores. Following the MIND diet is the easiest way to maintain good brain health and ward off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

What are the Health Benefits of the MIND Diet?

Developing a meal plan based on the principles of the MIND diet has a significant cognitive benefit. Its high quantities of folic acid provide a slower decline in brain health in older adults, and it regulates blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, renal disease, breast cancer and other chronic diseases.

A 2015 study also showed the benefits of the MIND diet on the reduction of the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The study followed the diets and cognitive health and functions of 964 participants over the period of 4 years and found that those who had a high adherence rate (greater than or equal to 8) to the MIND diet experienced slower decline in semantic memory and improvement in their cognitive function, regardless of age, education level, sex or genetic risk factors.

Tips for Following a MIND Diet

To be able to follow the MIND diet plan successfully, the first thing that you must do is to avoid unhealthy food such as the following:

  • Fast food
  • Desserts made with artificial sweeteners
  • Fried food
  • Butter and margarine
  • Red meat
  • Whole milk cheese and cream sauce

The best way to implement the MIND diet is by gradually making changes to your eating habits, swapping out unhealthy snacks for healthier options such as fresh fruit, green vegetables and low-fat cheese or whole grain crackers and reduced-fat peanut butter. It is also important to drink plenty of water and get regular physical activity.

Simple Recipes for MIND Diet

It takes very little effort to achieve good MIND diet scores. In fact, adhering to healthy dietary interventions like this one demands nothing more than simplicity, if not minimalism. You only need to have more plant-based foods by increasing your vegetable and fruit consumption, as well as getting the recommended amount of fatty fish per week. Here below are sample recipes to help you get started:

Green salad with hard boiled egg

Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups mixed green salad with tomatoes and cucumbers
  • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat balsamic vinaigrette
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the vinegar to make the dressing.
  2. Put the veggies in a bowl and top them off with the egg slices.
  3. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

Spinach smoothie

Another easy recipe for a MIND diet is a spinach smoothie that can be blended together in less than five minutes.

Ingredients
  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 cups of spinach leaves
  • ¼ freshly squeezed cup orange juice
  • ½ cup soy milk or low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium ripe banana
Directions
  1. Put all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend them thoroughly until the smoothie reaches the desired consistency.
  3. Serve with carrot sticks or boiled edamame.

Not only do simple meals such as these reduce caloric intake, which in turn lowers blood pressure levels and improves heart health. They, too, improve brain function and reduce dementia risk even in old age.

Following the MIND diet can help improve your brain health and protect you from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It is a gradual process, so be sure to make small changes to your eating habits and replace unhealthy foods with healthy alternatives. It can be helpful to work with a nutritionist or a registered dietitian when following the MIND diet, especially if you have questions about what foods to eat and avoid. You can also consider joining a local support group where others share healthy food ideas and tips for following the MIND diet.

FAQs About The MIND Diet

Is peanut butter on the MIND diet?

Yes it is. Peanuts and peanut butter are high in niacin and vitamin E, according to a previous study. This vitamin protects the brain from oxidative damage while also enhancing memory.

Can you eat potatoes on the MIND diet?

Increased consumption of berries, beans, oily fish and green leafy vegetables is emphasised in the MIND diet. It discourages the use of dairy products, potatoes and red meat.

What are brainfood snacks?

If you want to get the most out of the MIND diet, it's important to stick to certain types of foods. For lunch and dinner, high-protein, low-calorie foods like salmon and tuna are recommended. Nuts and berries, on the other hand, are nutritious brain snacks.

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