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What is the MIND Diet and how can it help your brain?

The MIND Diet

Since researchers have not yet determined what causes Alzheimer’s disease, you may be wondering if there is anything we can do to prevent it?

The answer is YES. RUSH University nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, ScD, and colleagues’ research has shown a link between nutrition and the role it may play to prevent or delay the onset of dementia decline. One of the studies showed the benefits of the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) on cognition – it included 960 participants with an average age of 81. The research analyzed food frequency and cognition scores over 10 years. Those on the MIND diet scored being 7.5 years younger cognitively!

Another study by the same team of researchers studying 923 people between the ages of 58 and 98 years old showed that even moderate adherence to the MIND diet reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 35%, and high adherence to the diet reduced the risk by 53%.

So what is the MIND diet? Put simply, it’s about trying to eat the 10 brain-healthy foods, as well as being aware of the 5 unhealthy foods.

The 10 brain-healthy foods are:

  1. Green leafy vegetables – aim for six servings a week. These include spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, arugula, endive, grape leaves, and romaine lettuce.
  2. Other vegetables – aim for at least one serving a day. These include green or red peppers, squash, carrots, broccoli, celery, potatoes, peas or lima beans, tomatoes or tomato sauce, beans, beets, corn, zucchini, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, coleslaw, or potato salad.
  3. Nuts – aim for five servings a week. Try peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or nut butter.
  4. Berries – aim for two servings a week. Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries. Frozen berries work, too, when berries are out of season.
  5. Beans – have beans during at least three meals a week. Try black, pinto, cannellini, garbanzo, kidney, and lima beans, lentils, edamame, tofu, hummus, or soybeans.
  6. Whole grains – aim for three servings a day. You want dark or whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, wild rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur, oats, or whole grain cereal.
  7. Fish – eat at least once a week.
  8. Poultry – have for two meals a week.
  9. Olive oil – have this be your primary oil.
  10. Wine – have one glass a day.

The 5 unhealthy-for-your-brain foods are:

  1. Red meats – limit to four meals a week.
  2. Butter and margarine – limit to 1 tablespoon a day.
  3. Cheese – limit to one serving a week.
  4. Pastries and sweets – limit to five servings a week.
  5. Fried or fast foods – limit to one time a week.

Why does the MIND diet work? The brain-healthy foods contain antioxidants, Omega-3s, vitamin E, folate, flavonoids, and carotenoids, which work to fight inflammation and prohibit amyloid deposits, both of which are thought to be connected to neurodegenerative disease.

As clinical nutrition manager at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, I know how hard diet changes are. So here’s my tip – try to make one positive change a week. Your brain will thank you!

Tina Reilly's picture

About the Blogger

Clinical Nutrition Manager at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center

Tina Reilly is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. Previous to this position, Tina was the Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Kindred Hospital, Boston. Her experience includes being a dietician at several Boston hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Tina has a B.S. in Clinical Dietetics.

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