The MIND Diet

 
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Posted: 15/02/2018

Updated: 15/02/2018

According to TIME Health, the MIND diet was developed specifically to address cognitive issues and ranks as one of the top five most effective diet in 2018 (1, 2).

That said, what exactly is the MIND diet? Let us take a look.

MIND diet defined...

The term MIND is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet is a combination of the two very popular diets – the Mediterranean and DASH diet.

Here is a quick catch-up for those who don’t know what the Mediterranean and DASH diets are. Both diets emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and unsaturated fats with olive oil being the principal fat in the Mediterranean diet. These diets are low in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (3). Both diet types were ranked as the top two most effective diets in 2018 (4).

 

The above-mentioned diet types aim to lower high blood pressure, diabetes, the development of cardiovascular diseases and several other diseases.

 

The MIND diet, however, focuses more on reducing brain deterioration, and the occurrence of mental health diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s (5).​

 

10 recommended foods

5 foods to limit

Benefits

According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, this disease is occurring in individuals younger than 65 years of age (6). However, following the MIND diet, one can reduce the chances of this occurring.

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showed that after four and a half years, all three diets offered significant protection against Alzheimer’s when closely followed.

The Mediterranean diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by 54%, the MIND diet by 53%, and the DASH diet by 39%.

Only the MIND diet, however, protected against Alzheimer’s when not followed strictly. Participants who followed the diet even in a moderate amount was associated with a 35% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (7).

 

However, studies that were done were observational and hence, they can’t prove cause and effect, they can only detect an association.

 
  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Other vegetables

  • Berries

  • Fish

  • Beans

  • Poultry 

  • Nuts

  • Wholegrains 

  • Olive oil

  • Red wine

  • Butter and margarine

  • Cheese

  • Red Meat

  • Fast/fried foods

  • Pastries and sweets

Food for the mind

Graphics from Canadian Living

The MIND diet emphasizes natural plant-based foods and limited intakes of animal and high saturated fat foods. It also uniquely specifies 10 healthy food groups that should be included in your diet and 5 unhealthy food groups that should be avoided.

 

Let us take a look at what you should eat when following the MIND diet plan.

 

10 foods to eat more of

These are categorized as "brain healthy" because they are foods that contain many different nutrients and antioxidants important for brain function.

Green leafy vegetables

6 or more servings per week

The diet’s top brain healthy food groups include green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collards and other greens which are packed with folate, vitamins A and C and other nutrients.​​​

All kinds of vegetables

1 or more serving per day in addition to the green leafy vegetables

It is recommended to eat a salad and at least one other vegetable every day to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. You can get creative and make different types of salads with vegetables. Do not be afraid to add legumes or nuts to them, or even some fish. This can help add some flavour to your salads.​

Berries

2 or more servings per week

The MIND diet is unlike the DASH and Mediterranean diet which stresses on fruit as a general category. Instead, blueberries among all other berries have been shown to be particularly helpful in improving memory performance. Research has shown that the compounds in berries such as flavonoids and especially anthocyanidins are beneficial for brain health and Alzheimer’s disease (8).

Fish

1 or more serving per week

It is best to choose fatty varieties such as salmon, sardines and herrings just to name a few. Fatty fish contains a high level of healthy fats such as Omega- 3 fatty acids, important for synaptic proteins in the brain which has been shown to improve mental health (9).

Beans

4 or more servings per week

Beans including legumes are great sources of protein and fibre and low in calories and fat. Protein is known to help in the production of muscle tissue. In other words, the growth of lean muscles. These also help keep your mind sharp as part of the MIND diet.

Poultry

2 or more servings per week

Try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Fried chicken does not count.

Nuts

5 servings or more per week

Nuts contain healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants, and other studies have found they can help lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and reduce the risk of heart disease. Avoid salted, roasted and fried varieties. The types of nuts are not specified but it is best to choose a variety to obtain a diverse range of nutrients.

Wholegrains

3 or more servings per day

Whole grains are a key component of the MIND diet. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread or rye bread.

Olive oil

Use as the main cooking oil

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.

Red wine

1 glass per day

Red wine has a compound resveratrol which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. However, swap for purple grape juice instead if you prefer not to drink.

 

When you follow this diet, you can eat more than just these 10 foods. However, the more you stick to the diet, the better your results are said to be.

 

5 foods to avoid

The mind diet recommends limiting the following five foods. Researchers encourage limiting the consumption of these foods because of their high trans fatty acids, saturated fats and sugar content. These can elevate levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and turn on inflammatory genes, raising risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia and Alzheimer's disease (10).

Butter and margarine

Less than 1 tablespoon (around 14 grams) per day

Try swapping butter and margarine for olive oil.​

Cheese

Less than 1 serving per week

Red meat

Less than 4 servings per week

This includes all beef, pork, lamb and products made from these meats.​​​

Fast/Fried foods

Less than 1 serving per week

The MIND diet discourages fried food, so limit your consumption to less than once per week.

Pastries and sweets

Less than 4 servings per week

This includes most of the processed junk food and desserts like ice cream, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, candy, etc.