The MIND diet is a hybrid of Mediterranean and DASH diets with its goal to reduce dementia and the decline in brain health that usually occurs as we go on to age.
Only a few epidemiological studies have been published on the MIND diet, with their main findings showing that adherence to the MIND diet is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Basics of the MIND Diet
For many years, the researchers have examined the relationship between foods we eat and their effects on our health.
In 2015, the researchers began to specifically examine the relationship between certain foods and their effect on brain health with intention of slowing the decline of brain health as we age and also reducing the risk of the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, the “MIND” diet was created.
The MIND diet stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for the Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet also combines principles from two other well-known diets: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional eating habits of those in the Mediterranean countries. The DASH diet was developed as a result of the clinical trials funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
This diet reduces dementia and also declines in brain health that usually occurs as we age. Specifically, MIND diet differs from the Mediterranean and the DASH diets in a few ways like:
- It emphasizes the berries, due to their antioxidant properties, over other fruits and also recommends eating fish at least once per week.
- also highlights the difference between the green, leafy vegetables, which are rich in many nutrients and thought to reduce the risk of CVD and also cognitive decline
- The MIND diet argues that both the green leafy vegetables and other vegetables are essential.
MIND Diet and Health
Both the Mediterranean and the DASH diets have been researched thoroughly and are also associated with lower blood pressure, a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
In contrast, there are only a handful of epidemiological studies examining the MIND diet’s effect on brain health and cognitive function. So far, the results have shown the MIND diet to be associated with the slowing cognitive decline and a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, because the MIND diet is a combination of the both Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, it’s thought to have a similar effect on improving heart health and reducing the risk of CVD and diabetes, both of which are risk factors for the Alzheimer’s disease.
Although MIND diet – in conjunction with other good health habits like the regular exercise, not smoking and getting adequate sleep may have an effect on the cognition, many other factors impact the development of Alzheimer’s disease (source)
Research on the MIND Diet and Brain Health
The first official paper on this diet was published in 2015.
So it’s no surprise that there’s not much research investigating its effects.
However, the two observational studies on the MIND diet have shown very promising results also.
In one more study of 923 older adults, the people who followed the MIND diet has the closest to 53% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease than the people who followed it the least
Interestingly, the people who followed the MIND diet only moderately still had seemed to benefit from it, and cut their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 35%, on average.
The second study also found that people who followed the MIND diet has the closest experience of a slower decline in brain function compared to the people who followed the diet the least
According to MIND diet pioneers, an ischemic stroke causes the brain to age 3.6 years for every hour that the stroke symptoms go untreated. This likely explains why the stroke survivors have a double rate of dementia than the general public, and almost 20 percent of the stroke survivors develop dementia.
However, note that both these studies were purely observational, meaning they can’t prove the cause and effect. They can only detect the associations.
A study done by healthy Chicago-area residents found that those who had tended to follow the MIND diet functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than those subjects who were the least adherent to the diet.
A study comparing the Mediterranean, the DASH and MIND diets in octogenarians who had suffered from the stroke was presented at the International Stroke Conference. This study has found a 20-year difference in the cognitive functioning between those who were most and least adherent to the MIND diet.
How the MIND diet is unique
All three diets encourage eating lean meats, fish, whole grains, fresh produce, and olive oil and discourage the salt. But they have important differences.
The MIND diet deviates from Mediterranean and DASH diets in that it restricts the type and amount of fruits and vegetables to be consumed. The MIND diet also specifies eating the berries, but not other fruits, as the other diets do. Nor does for eating dairy products, the potatoes or more than one meal of fish a week.
The MIND diet suggests that by consuming green, leafy vegetables plus one other vegetable every day, while the Mediterranean and the DASH diets encourage loading up on fruits and vegetables of all kinds.
When coming to dairy, the MIND diet discusses limiting only the cheese and butter. The Mediterranean diet encourages consuming dairy products in moderation and allows the eggs.
The MIND diet specifies the elimination of foods with an unhealthy effect on the brain. These include red meat, and processed meats, fried fast foods, sweets and pastries, butter, stick margarine, etc.
Foods to be included and avoided in the MIND diet
Green leafy vegetables
The MIND diet recommends the frequent servings of green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and other greens as they are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients.
At least about two servings a week can help, and the researchers found six or more servings a week to provide the greatest brain benefits.
The Mediterranean and the DASH diets do not specifically recommend these types of vegetables, but the MIND diet study found that including the greens in addition to other veggies made a difference in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
The MIND diet emphasizes the importance of vegetables for brain health. The researchers recommend the eating of a salad and at least one other vegetable every day to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Nuts are a good snacks for brain health, according to MIND diet study. Nuts contain good amounts of healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, and other studies have also found they can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MIND diet recommends eating nuts at least five times a week.
Berries are only fruit that specifically recommended in the MIND diet. Blueberries are one food that are having more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain
Strawberries have also shown the benefits in past studies looking at the effect of food on the cognitive function. The MIND diet recommends eating a good amount of berries at least twice a week.
If beans aren’t the regular part of your diet, they should be. High in fiber and proteins, and low in calories and fat, they also help to keep your mind sharp as part of the MIND diet. The researchers also recommend eating beans at least three times a week to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Whole grains are a key component of the MIND diet. It recommends at least about three servings a day.
MIND diet study found that eating fish at least once a week helps in protecting brain function. However, there’s no need to go overboard; unlike the Mediterranean diet, which recommends eating the fish almost every day, the MIND diet says about once a week is enough.
Poultry is another part of a good brain-healthy eating plan, according to the MIND diet. It recommends two or more servings a week at least.
Olive oil beat out other forms of the cooking oil and fats in the MIND diet. The researchers found that the people who used olive oil as their primary oil at home saw greater protection against cognitive decline as years gone.
Raise a toast to MIND diet: it recommends a glass of wine every day. Just one!
Wine rounds out of the list of brain-healthy food groups that help to protect against Alzheimer’s: like green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, etc
Now here are five food groups it says you should avoid reducing your risk of developing dementia…
Red meat isn’t banned in the MIND diet, but researchers say that you should limit the consumption to no more than four servings a week to help the protection of brain health. That’s more generous than the Mediterranean diet, which restricts the red meat to just one serving a week.
Butter and stick margarine
Butter and the stick margarine should be limited to less than a single tablespoon per day on the MIND diet. Brain-healthy olive oil can often be used instead of it.
Cheese may be so delicious but it doesn’t do your brain any good favors, according to MIND diet study. Eating cheese no more than once a week if you want to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Pastries and sweets
You already know that they’re not so good for your waistline, and it turns out that the pastries and other sweets could have a negative effect on brain health as well. The MIND diet recommends limiting yourself to about no more than five of these treats per week.
Fried foods and fast food
Fried foods and the fast-food round out MIND diet’s list of unhealthy food groups. Limit your indulgence in the fried food to no more than once a week for optimal brain health.
But even if you slip up on the diet from time to time, the researchers say that it can still have benefits. Even the modest adherence to MIND diet measurably reduced a person’s chances of developing the Alzheimer’s disease, and longer you stick with it, the greater the benefits would be(source)
A Sample Meal Plan
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with raspberries, with topped with sliced almonds.
Lunch: The Mediterranean salad with olive-oil-based dressing, the grilled chicken, whole-wheat pita.
Dinner: The Burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, a good amount of fajita vegetables, the grilled chicken, salsa and guacamole.
Breakfast: A Wheat toast with almond butter, and scrambled eggs.
Lunch: A Grilled chicken sandwich, blackberries, carrots.
Dinner: A Grilled salmon, along with side salad with olive-oil-based dressing, brown rice.
Breakfast: A Steel-cut oatmeal with strawberries, hard-boiled eggs.
Lunch: The Mexican-style salad with some mixed greens, black beans, red onion, boiled corn, grilled chicken and olive-oil-based dressing.
Dinner: Chicken with vegetable stir-fry, brown rice.
Breakfast: The Greek yogurt with peanut butter and banana.
Lunch: The Baked trout, collard greens, black-eyed peas.
Dinner: Whole-wheat spaghetti with some turkey meatballs and marinara sauce, with a side salad
Indian sample MIND diet
Breakfast- Start your day with a big bowl of oats with some berries or yogurt topped with the berries and some nuts
Mid-meal snack- Unsalted nuts, about 1/3 cup
Lunch- A 1-2 medium-sized multi-grain or the whole-wheat flatbread (roti) +
1 portion of green leafy vegetables such as the spinach, fenugreek, kale, mustard greens and broccoli +
1 portion of chicken (2 pieces, non-fried) or 1 portion of beans or whole pulses
The entire meal should always be cooked in olive oil, herbs, and spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and pepper should be used. The use of salt should be limited strictly.
Mid-meal snack- A fruit
Dinner- 1 portion of quinoa or wheat cracks with stir-fry vegetables such as the tomato, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli.
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