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Is the MIND Diet for you?

New Year Resolutions are right around the corner, learn about the MIND Diet and how it affects your brain

Is the MIND Diet for you?

As you age, you probably consider achy joints, some wrinkles, and perhaps a few grey hairs – but what about your brain? As the body goes through the normal aging process, the brain would ideally age at the same, or better, rate. However, this healthy ideal may not the case for millions of individuals over 65 who experience brain-related symptoms outside normal aging. In 2014 about 5 million individuals over the age of 65 had Dementia. The CDC predicts that by 2060, that number will jump to 14 million individuals.

The CDC defines Dementia as a general term related to an inability to remember, think, or make decisions. Nonmodifiable factors such as genetics, age, family history, ethnicity, and race may increase the likelihood of developing Dementia. The good news – many modifiable factors, such as diet and exercise, may help reduce the risk. One dietary pattern that has been studied to support brain health is the MIND diet. MIND stands for "Mediterranean Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay" and is considered a combination of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The diet has 15 dietary components, separated by ten recommended  foods and five foods to limit for brain health.

Recommended foods associated with the MIND diet include:

  1. Brain healthy
  2. Green leafy vegetables
  3. Other vegetables
  4. Nuts
  5. Berries
  6. Beans
  7. Whole grains
  8. Fish
  9. Poultry
  10. Olive oil
  11. Red wine

Foods to limit include:

  1. Red meats
  2. Butter and stick margarine
  3. Cheese
  4. Pastries and sweets
  5. Fried or fast foods

Studies on the diet have found the following benefits:

Better cognitive performance

A 2021 study found that even individuals who moderately followed the MIND diet in midlife had better cognitive health. The authors of the study noted that “a person would need to eat at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable, and one other vegetable every day -- along with a glass of wine -- snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week.”

  1. Reduction of inflammation system-wide

Inflammation and oxidative stress are a potential determinant of the development of Dementia. A recent meta-analysis found that adherence to the DASH diet (a central MIND diet component) can help reduce overall inflammation in the body, and similarly many components of the MIND diet have been found to reduce oxidative stress.

Incorporating the MIND diet into your dietary pattern is one way to help your brain with the nutrients it loves. Here are some suggestions on how to fit in the MIND diet’s central components.

  • Get green. Start by consuming leafy greens at least six times per week. You can do this by adding leafy greens into daily smoothies, mixing with your egg omelet in the morning, or focusing on salads over sandwiches for lunch. The MIND diet requires other vegetables in addition to green leafy at least once a day as well. For example, spaghetti squash with tomato sauce is an excellent example of consuming more vegetables outside of leafy greens.
  • Boost your berries. You can add even more color and nutrients by focusing on berries. Berries have independently been found to benefit the brain in previous studies and can easily be consumed alone as a snack or mixed into your salads.
  • Let healthy fats rule. Fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are star players in the MIND diet and are easy to fit into any dietary pattern as main dishes or snacks. In addition to fatty fish, poultry is another recommended animal protein in the diet.
  • Get in touch with intact grains. Steel-cut oats in the morning or quinoa thrown into those leafy green salads is a great way to include the MIND diet whole grain requirements.
  • Get some plants in your protein. Adding more beans and legumes to the diet at least once a week can help enhance protein and nutrients. You can consume bean-based pasta or add some lentils to a colorful vegetable bowl.
  • The last recommended component of the MIND diet is red wine. If you are not someone who drinks alcohol, don't start (after all, you can get resveratrol through consuming grapes as a snack as well), but if you enjoy a glass of wine, the MIND diet allows one 5-ounce glass per day.
The MIND diet is a healthy eating pattern that has been shown to benefit your overall brain health in some studies, although others have been inconclusive. Following just some or all diet components is associated with  supporting brain health. In addition to the diet, physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management have also been associated with a improving brain health.