There’s always a new fad or diet trend circling the globe. Perhaps you hear about it through social media or through several scientific studies surfacing to encourage others to improve their nutrition. Whatever the case, experts have now combined two popular diets, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, to create the MIND diet to protect your brain. So, if you like to explore innovative ways to boost your health, read on to learn how to get started with the MIND diet and reap the cognitive benefits.
What Is the MIND Diet?
Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND for short, is a diet that combines two popular diets, Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), to protect and strengthen the brain against dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive diseases as we age. In fact, many scientific studies and experts argue these two diets are the healthiest and can further reduce diabetes, oxidative stress, and high blood pressure, among other conditions. Therefore, they combined aspects of both to create the ultimate brain-enhancing and health-optimal diet.
What Are the Benefits of the MIND Diet?
When you adhere to a diet with your cognition as its guide, you’ll receive several benefits that aid your overall well-being.
- Decreased age-related cognitive decline. Studies show older adults who follow this lifestyle have stronger episodic memory, working memory, and semantic memory and can perceive and act quicker
- Lowers your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. In a clinical trial following the MIND diet for 4.5 years, participants decreased their risk of cognitive diseases by 53%
- Reduces inflammation. Since this diet combines aspects of both the Mediterranean and DASH diet, it’s a given you’ll receive a significant reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress when you prioritize high-nutrient foods
- Protects your heart. Eating foods high in antioxidants and fiber and straying away from meat and saturated fat gives you the best of both worlds; it protects your brain and your heart
- Lowers diabetes. Prioritizing a low-sugar diet led to a 20% reduction in Type 2 diabetes and better-enhanced blood sugar control in a meta-analysis review
What Are the Principels of the MIND Diet
Overall, the main principles include eating at least three servings of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits and one to two servings of beans, poultry, and fish weekly. You may also include berries and nuts as daily snacks and only consume red meat, eggs, and dairy in moderation. Designed for optimal brain health and cognitive resilience, these rules encourage high-nutrient foods and discourage saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
5 Foods to Avoid on the MIND Diet
1. Red meat
To keep your thinking and memory sharp, this diet recommends limiting your red meat consumption to no more than three servings weekly. This rule also applies to pork, lamb, and beef, which contain high amounts of saturated fat. Therefore, get creative and kickstart your day with one of these high-protein vegan breakfasts, or give one of these vegan Italian recipes a try.
2. Pastries and sweets
You may struggle following the MIND diet if you have a sweet tooth. It limits processed sweets and baked goods like ice cream, cookies, donuts, etc., to no more than four times a week. Too much sugar over time can damage brain blood vessels, causing problems with memory and concentration and potentially vascular dementia.
3. Butter and margarine
Always use olive oil as your primary cooking oil, and try to eat less than one tablespoon of butter daily. Why? Butter is loaded with saturated fats, and too much causes cognitive decline and significantly increases your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While cheese might be your go-to comfort food, try to limit your consumption to less than one serving per week. Diacetyl, the key ingredient in processed cheese responsible for its creaminess, can harm your brain and lead to memory decline. So, explore a few high-protein vegan meals to curb your cheese cravings and satiate your hunger.
5. Fried food
Avoiding fried foods is a universal rule, regardless of your diet. But on the MIND diet, you’re allowed less than one serving weekly. Indeed, these guilty pleasures are packed with harmful saturated fats and excessive sodium. And like sugar, they can also cause inflammation and damage your brain’s blood vessels.
10 Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet
1. Whole grains
Eat four or more servings a week of whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, rye, oats, bulgur, or brown and wild rice to enjoy the advantages of brain-boosting nutrients like vitamin B, magnesium, fiber, zinc, antioxidants, and folate. A folate deficiency can actually cause neurological disorders like depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Therefore, opt for something like baked oatmeal cups or high-protein overnight oats to kickstart your day.
2. Leafy greens
The MIND diet asks you to load up on leafy greens with at least six or more servings per week. To limit the potential repetition, try some of these salad upgrades or experiment with different smoothie recipes. Prioritizing your daily greens will provide essential nutrients like folate, lutein, and beta-carotene to protect cognition as you age.
You are welcome to eat the rainbow with your brain-enriched vegetable selection. For example, opt for at least one daily serving and eat asparagus, broccoli, peppers, eggplant, okra, carrots, beets, and squash…the list is endless. Or make one of our favorite cucumber juice recipes.
4. Nuts and seeds
Nuts are always a popular go-to that carries multiple benefits. But for the brain specifically, they contain a plethora of b vitamins, healthy fats, and minerals that make you on top of your game. Enjoy at least five servings a week of walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, or macadamias.
You probably already know the antioxidant-rich and brain-boosting benefits of berries. But did you know a study found adults who ate a daily serving of blueberries showed improvements in memory and attention with select tasks? It’s true, so enjoy two weekly servings of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries.
Whether you choose pinto beans, black beans, red beans, or chickpeas, beans are the ultimate superfood. They’re an exceptional source of protein and provide essential B vitamins, both of which are critical to your brain health. Yet limit their deliciousness to three servings a week.
It’s widely acknowledged fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and trout contain high sources of omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats that promote brain and heart health. However, limit your weekly intake to one serving, and if you’re not a fan of seafood, there are other omega-3-enriched foods to add to your diet.
Lean meats like chicken or turkey contain vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that aids cognitive performance and helps the nervous system function properly. While meal prepping, incorporate a few delicious rotisserie chicken leftover recipes into your diet, and limit your consumption to two servings per week.
9. Olive oil
Known as the staple of an Italian diet, this antioxidant-packed and versatile product promotes new brain cells, protects the brain from damage, and improves overall brain function. So, substitute butter and make olive oil your primary cooking oil.
The presence of antioxidants, specifically resveratrol, in both red and white wine is why you’re allowed one glass daily. While the research about the benefits of resveratrol is inclusive, feel free to enjoy your treat after a taxing day to de-stress.
There you have it! Your guide to the MIND diet, including its brain-boosting benefits and why you should try to incorporate its elements into your everyday lifestyle.
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