More than 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). It is the most common cause of dementia and ranks third as a cause of death after heart disease and cancer (1). To reduce the incidence of AD, Dr. Morris and colleagues created the MIND diet (2). This diet has shown to lower the risk of AD by 35% – 53% depending on the adherence to it (3).
What’s the secret behind the success of this diet? What should you eat and avoid? Can the MIND diet help protect you and your loved ones from brain degeneration? Keep reading to find out.
Table Of Contents
What Is The MIND Diet?
“MIND” stands for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Both these diets are known to aid weight loss and improve heart health (4), (5).
After years of research about the relationship between nutrition, aging, and Alzheimer’s, the creator of the MIND diet, Prof. Martha Clare Morris, published a paper in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Journal of the American Alzheimer’s Association (2015).
Prof. Morris’ team includes Dr. Lisa Barnes, Dr. Neelum T. Aggarwal, and Dr. Konstantinos Arfanakis of Rush University Medical Center, and Dr. Frank Sacks (who chaired the committee that developed DASH diet) of Harvard Medical School (2).
The website dedicated to the MIND diet trial clearly indicates what the scientists are trying to do. “We are doing this research study to see if there is a relationship between diet and brain health. This study compares parallel groups with two different diets; both with mild caloric restriction for weight loss. This research study may serve as a model for weight loss diets and slowing cognitive decline.”
Well, how does this diet work to protect the brain? Scroll down for the answer.
How Does It Work?
The MIND diet works by combining two healthy diets – the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was created about two decades ago to lower blood pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive patients (8).
Both these diets advocate the intake of lean proteins, low-sugar, low-salt, minimally processed foods, limited alcohol, healthy fats, and regular physical activity to improve overall well-being (6), (9).
Before I talk about the foods to eat if you follow the MIND diet, let me take you through the scientific research on the MIND diet and the results the scientists have obtained.
- The MIND diet is based on scientific research. Dr. Morris and her colleagues conducted an experiment on 923 participants between the ages of 58-98 and followed up for four and a half years. The research team concluded that even a moderate adherence to the MIND diet led to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (3), (10).
- Another study was conducted on the MIND diet by Agnes Berendsen et al. from Wageningen University, Netherland. The diets of 16,058 women aged 70 and over were monitored from 1984 to 1998, and this was followed up by assessing cognitive abilities from 1995 to 2001 through telephonic interviews. The research team found that long-term adherence to the MIND diet led to better verbal memory (11).
- A research team led by Dr. Claire T. Mc. Evoy conducted an experiment on 5,907 women of age 68±10 with the Mediterranean diet and MIND diet. The participants’ cognitive performance was measured. It was found that participants with greater adherence to the Mediterranean and MIND diets had better cognitive function and lowered cognitive impairment (12).
Now, the burning question is, who should follow the MIND diet? Let’s find out in the next segment.
Who Should Follow The MIND Diet?
The MIND diet is best for people over 50. But you MUST take your doctor’s approval before following it. So, which foods should you eat and avoid? Find out next.
MIND Diet Foods To Eat
- Berries – Dr. Morris says, “(the MIND diet) specifically includes foods and nutrients that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain, such as berries.” Consume least two servings of two to three types of berries per day. Have strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
- Veggies – At least six servings of leafy greens like spinach and kale per week and one serving of non-starchy veggies per day is highly recommended.
- Olive Oil – Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet and is a healthy fat containing a good dose of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Use it as your main cooking oil.
- Nuts – Nuts are healthy fats and great sources of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Have five servings of nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia, and pine nuts per week.
- Fish – Fatty fish like trout, salmon, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is known to lower inflammation and oxidative stress (13). Consume wild-caught fish at least once a week.
- Whole Grains – Consume at least three servings of brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole grain bread per day.
- Poultry – Consume poached or steamed chicken breast and ground turkey at least twice a week. Do not consume fried chicken.
- Legumes – Consume four servings of soybeans, lentils, and beans per week.
- Wine – The resveratrol in red wine may help protect the heart and from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (14), (15). Consume half a glass of red wine per day.
So, what are the foods that are a strict no-no on the MIND diet? They are listed in the following section.
MIND Diet Foods To Avoid
- Fried Foods – Foods like fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, and other fast foods are loaded with unhealthy fats and may increase oxidative stress levels in the body.
- Red Meat – Reduce red meat consumption. The high amount of saturated fat in red meat may pose a serious threat to your heart and brain health. You may consume 1-2 servings of red meat per week.
- High-Salt And High-Sugar Foods – Salty and sugary foods like potato wafers, burgers, salted nuts, canned foods, frozen meats, sauces, and candies should be avoided at all costs.
- Butter And Margarine – Cut down your butter and margarine consumption to just one tablespoon per day.
- Cheese – Limit your cheese consumption to just a serving per week.
Based on the foods to eat and avoid, we have created a 7-day MIND diet plan. Take a look.
7-Day MIND Diet Plan
|Monday||Breakfast – Oatmeal + berries + almonds
Lunch – Tuna salad with olive oil and lime juice dressing
Dinner – Lentil soup
|Tuesday||Breakfast – Scrambled egg whites + ½ avocado + 1 whole grain toast
Lunch – Mushroom or chicken soup
Dinner – Grilled salmon and blanched veggies
|Wednesday||Breakfast – Berry smoothie bowl
Lunch – Turkey taco + yogurt
Dinner – Tofu salad
|Thursday||Breakfast – Spinach omelet
Lunch – Asian-style chicken and brown rice
Dinner – Kidney bean chili
|Friday||Breakfast – Spinach and banana smoothie with flaxseed powder
Lunch – Vegetable quinoa + 1 cup buttermilk
Dinner – Baked salmon with veggies
|Saturday||Breakfast – 1 whole grain toast with 2 teaspoons butter + 1 poached egg
Lunch – Steak with grilled veggies
Dinner – Cream of mushroom soup
|Sunday||Breakfast – Mushroom and avocado toast + juice of ½ grapefruit
Lunch – Vegetable semolina topped with toasted nuts
Dinner – Cucumber soup + grilled salmon
It looks doable now, right? Once you start following this eating pattern, you will not feel like you are following a “diet.” It will be your new lifestyle.
But there remains one question to be answered. Why is the MIND diet so popular with the scientific community? Scroll down to find out.
Benefits Of The MIND Diet
The reason the MIND diet is gaining popularity in the scientific community lies in its benefits. Let’s find out what they are:
- May Reduce Oxidative Stress Levels – The MIND diet recommends consuming foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (olive oil, fatty fish, and nuts). Omega-3 fatty acids help scavenge the harmful free oxygen radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body (16).
- May Reduce Inflammation – The omega-3 fatty acids in various recommended foods of the MIND diet help balance the omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids ratio. This helps reduce inflammation in the body (17), (18).
- May Reduce Beta-Amyloid Proteins – Beta-amyloid proteins are protein fragments that are harmful to the body. They may cause plaque build-up in the brain, causing brain cell death. And that may cause Alzheimer’s (19). The MIND diet reduces the intake of saturated fats, thereby lowering the levels of beta-amyloid proteins.
Dr. Morris and her team researched for years before concluding that the MIND diet is probably what we need to consume to prevent brain degeneration. Their work is a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease prevention and protection. Talk to your doctor and start being on a healthy diet. Or help your loved one with Alzheimer’s improve their brain function and quality of life. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section. Take care!
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can we have eggs on the MIND diet?
Yes, you may consume 2-3 eggs per week. Avoid the yolk if your cholesterol levels are high.
Who created the MIND diet?
The MIND diet was created by Prof. Martha Clare Morris, Dr. Lisa Barnes, Dr. Neelum T. Aggarwal, and Dr. Konstantinos Arfanakis of Rush University Medical Center, and Dr. Frank Sacks (who chaired the committee that developed DASH diet) of Harvard Medical School.
What is the difference between MIND diet and Mediterranean diet?
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. The DASH diet was designed to help high blood pressure patients lower their salt intake. The Mediterranean diet is just a healthy diet pattern the people in the Mediterranean region follow, which has been found to be heart-healthy and increase longevity.
Will the MIND Diet help you lose weight?
Yes, the MIND diet will also help you lose weight./p>
Can the MIND diet prevent or control diabetes?
Yes, the MIND diet can indirectly help prevent or control diabetes.
- “Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet” National Insitute on Aging, US Department of Health & Human Services.
- “The MIND Diet Intervention to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease” The MIND Diet Intervention.
- “MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases” Nutrition Today, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The DASH diet and blood pressure.” Current Atherosclerosis Reports, US National Library of Medicine.
- “[Current evidence on health benefits of the mediterranean diet].” Revista medica de Chile, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet: Metabolic and Molecular Mechanisms.” The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The DASH Diet, 20 Years Later” Journal of the American Medical Association, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Mediterranean Eating Pattern” Diabetes Spectrum, US National Library of Medicine.
- “MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Association of Long-Term Adherence to the MIND Diet with Cognitive Function and Cognitive Decline in American Women.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Neuroprotective diets are associated with better cognitive function: the Health and Retirement Study” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The Effect of Supplementation with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Markers of Oxidative Stress in Elderly Exposed to PM2.5” Environmental Health Perspectives, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Red wine: A drink to your heart” Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Putative Role of Red Wine Polyphenols against Brain Pathology in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease” Frontiers in Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Fish oil omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids attenuate oxidative stress-induced DNA damage in vascular endothelial cells.” Public Library of Science One, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Processes” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Alzheimer’s Disease and the β-Amyloid Peptide” Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, US National Library of Medicine.