MIND Diet: Combining the Best of the Mediterranean & DASH Diet
A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows has developed a diet plan, called the MIND diet, that may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent. Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly but followed it “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third.
Nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, the lead author of the MIND diet study, says diet, genetics and other factors like smoking, exercise and education play a role. But the MIND diet helped slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against >Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors.
The study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, reviewed data from more than 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98 who filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. It found participants whose diets most closely followed the MIND recommendations had a level of cognitive function the equivalent of a person 7.5 years younger.
This diet combines many elements of two other popular nutrition plans which have been proven to benefit heart health: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
Difference between the MIND, DASH and Mediterranean Diet
But the MIND diet also differs from those plans in a few significant ways and proved more effective than either of them at reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. The MIND diet recommends frequent servings of green leafy vegetables. Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and other greens are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients. At least two servings a week can help, and researchers found six or more servings a week provide the greatest brain benefits.
The Mediterranean and DASH diets do not specifically recommend these types of vegetables, but the MIND diet study found that including greens in addition to other veggies made a difference in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Like other diets focused on weight loss and heart health, the MIND diet emphasizes the importance of vegetables for brain health. The researchers recommend eating a salad and at least one other vegetable every day to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Nuts contain healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants, and other studies have found they can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. MIND Recommendation: at least five times a week. Jerry Hickey’s Recommendation: once a week.
- Berries are the only fruit specifically recommended in the MIND diet. “Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” Morris said. She noted that strawberries have also shown benefits in past studies looking at the effect of food on cognitive function. Recommendation: eating berries at least twice a week.
- If beans aren’t a regular part of your diet, they should be. High in fiber and protein, and low in calories and fat, they also help keep your mind sharp as part of the MIND diet. Recommendation: eating beans three times a week to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Whole grains are a key component of the MIND diet. Recommendation: at least three servings a day.
- The MIND diet study found eating fish at least once a week helps protect brain function. However, there’s no need to go overboard; unlike the Mediterranean diet. Recommendation: eating fish almost every day, the MIND diet says once a week is enough.
- Poultry is another part of a brain-healthy eating plan, according to the MIND diet. Recommendation: two or more servings a week.
- Olive oil beat out other forms of cooking oil and fats in the MIND diet. The researchers found people who used olive oil as their primary oil at home saw greater protection against cognitive decline.
- The MIND diet recommends a glass of wine every day. Just one!
These are the 5 Mind Diet Don’ts
- Researchers say you should limit red meat consumption to no more than four servings a week to help protect brain health.
- Butter and stick margarine should be limited to less than a tablespoon, per day on the MIND diet. Olive oil can often be used as a substitute. Jerry Hickey’s Recommendation: Do not use margarine at all. Olive oil is a better alternative.
- Eat cheese no more than once a week if you want to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
- It turns out pastries and other sweets could have a negative effect on brain health as well. Recommendation: limiting yourself to no more than five of these treats per week. Jerry Hickey’s Recommendation: Substitute raisins or dark chocolate for a healthy alternative to beat the sugar craving.
- Limit your indulgence in fried food to no more than once a week for optimal brain health. Jerry Hickey’s Recommendation: Eliminate fast food completely. The high temperature of the oil in the frying process changes the molecular structure of proteins and fats in foods, making them more carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
Even “modest adherence” to the MIND diet measurably reduced a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and the longer you stick with it, the greater the benefits. “People who eat this diet consistently over the years get the best protection,” said lead author Martha Clare Morris. “You’ll be healthier if you’ve been doing the right thing for a long time.”
Jerry Hickey, R.Ph Weighs In!
“Additionally, exercise, getting enough sleep, and challenging the brain with math and learning, or doing crossword puzzles is important for maintaining memory. So is treating depression. Engaging in social interaction is important; spend time with friends and if you don’t have enough maybe consider introducing yourself to some neighbors. I would add real cocoa, organic green tea, and mushrooms to the list of desirable foods along with the culinary herbs rosemary, cinnamon (in moderation), turmeric, and oregano. I would also have fish more than once a week; two or three times seems more like it.”