What is The MIND Diet?
MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”.
The MIND diet is a dietary pattern that combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet to promote brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. It was concluded by a research team at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. (1)
The MIND diet emphasizes the consumption of whole grains, leafy green, berries, nuts, beans, and fish while limiting the intake of red meat, cheese, fried and fast food.
Studies have suggested that following the MIND diet may improve cognitive function and slow the cognitive decline associated with aging. (2)
What The Research Says
The Rush Memory and Aging Project has been studying seniors in Chicago since 1997.
Researchers reviewed the diets of the volunteers enrolled in the project. They tracked over 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98 over several years. (3)
They found that participants who closely followed the MIND diet had a 53% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not follow the diet as closely.
Even those who did not follow the diet strictly reaped significant benefits.
Additionally, a 2022 study found that middle-aged adults who followed the diet closely had faster information processing speeds. (4)
How Does the MIND Diet Protect Against Alzheimer’s?
By Reducing Oxidative Stress and Inflammation:
The MIND diet emphasizes foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as leafy greens, berries, nuts, beans, and fish. These foods help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which in turn helps to protect against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. (5)
A 2021 study found that the MIND diet slows the cognitive decline rate in people who suffered a stroke. (6)
By Reducing The Production of Beta-amyloid Proteins:
Research suggests that following the MIND diet helps reduce the production of harmful beta-amyloid proteins that are involved in the development of plaques, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. (7)
Beta-amyloid accumulation results in the building of plaques in the brain, which disrupts communication between brain cells and eventually leads to brain cell death. (8)
The MIND diet helps prevent beta-amyloid formation with its foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins. (9)
By Providing Brain Protective Vitamins:
This diet encourages the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods that are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals that are important for overall health and brain function. These include:
- Vitamin E: This vitamin helps protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is important for brain function and the production of red blood cells.
- Folate: This is a B vitamin that is necessary for brain function and the production of red blood cells.
- Iron: This mineral is essential in carrying oxygen to the body’s cells, including brain cells.
- Zinc: This mineral is crucial for brain function and the immune system.
Foods To Eat on The MIND diet
Here are ten foods emphasized in the MIND diet:
- Leafy green vegetables: These include kale, spinach, collard greens, and turnip greens which are rich in folate, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and other nutrients that protect cognition, especially when people get older.
- Berries: This includes blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries that are packed with antioxidants and health-promoting phytochemicals which are good for brain health. (10)
- Nuts: Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts are a good source of healthy fats and protein, as well as vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium.
- Beans: Beans such as black beans, lentils, and chickpeas are high in fiber, B vitamins, and plant-based protein.
- Whole grains: These include whole grain bread, oats, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Fish: Fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have brain-protective effects.
- Olive Oil: It is a healthy source of monounsaturated fats that are commonly used in the Mediterranean diet.
A Sample MIND Meal Plan for One Week
- Breakfast: Overnight oats with berries and almonds.
- Lunch: Quinoa and black bean salad with avocado, tomato, and lime juice.
- Dinner: Grilled salmon with roasted vegetables and brown rice.
- Breakfast: Whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana.
- Lunch: Kale and tomato soup with whole grain crackers.
- Dinner: Baked chicken with roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and honey.
- Lunch: Whole grain pita with hummus, vegetables, and turkey.
- Dinner: Grilled vegetables and chickpea skewers with quinoa.
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and spinach.
- Lunch: Grilled turkey and cheese sandwich with fruits.
- Dinner: Spaghetti with marinara sauce and garlic bread.
- Breakfast: Smoothie with spinach, banana, and almond milk.
- Lunch: Black bean and corn salad with avocado and lime juice.
- Dinner: Grilled shrimp with roasted vegetables and whole-grain pasta.
- Breakfast: Whole grain waffles with berries and whipped cream.
- Lunch: Whole grain wrap with turkey, avocado, and lettuce.
- Dinner: Veggies stir fry with tofu and brown rice.
- Breakfast: Omelette with peppers, and onions.
- Lunch: Grilled chicken Caesar salad.
- Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted broccoli and quinoa.
The Bottom Line
The MIND diet combines the basic principles of two healthy diets, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet.
The basic principle of this diet comes down to one fact: Eat more whole and less processed food. This is critical for all of us, at any age, if we wish to enjoy better cognition and mental health.
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(1)The Rush Memory and Aging Project: Study Design and Baseline Characteristics of the Study Cohort - Abstract - Neuroepidemiology 2005, Vol. 25, No. 4 - Karger Publishers
(2)MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging - PubMed (nih.gov)
(3)MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease - PMC (nih.gov)
(4)MIND Dietary Pattern Adherence is Selectively Associated With Cognitive Processing Speed in Middle-Aged Adults - PubMed (nih.gov)
(5)MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease - PMC (nih.gov)
(6)Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diet Slows Cognitive Decline After Stroke - PubMed (nih.gov)
(7)The amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer's disease at 25 years - PubMed (nih.gov)
(8)Molecular Pathogenesis and Disease-modifying Therapies of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders - PubMed (nih.gov)
(9)Enjoy Carefully: The Multifaceted Role of Vitamin E in Neuro-Nutrition - PubMed (nih.gov)
(10)Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline - PubMed (nih.gov)