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The MIND Diet

mind diet

There are many eating plans to choose from today, all with different areas of focus and outcomes. These healthy diets range from heart health, such as the Mediterranean diet, to hypertension prevention, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. But what about a diet that focuses on improving brain health, specifically Alzheimer’s disease? Make room for the MIND diet.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative neurological disease that is the principal leading cause of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (, this disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Last year there were more than five million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's disease. A possible solution known as the MIND diet is showing promise.

The MIND Diet Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) is a relatively new diet that combines both the Mediterranean and DASH diets with an emphasis on plant-based foods. The diet promotes increased consumption of green leafy vegetables and berries, while limiting intakes of animal-based foods such as red meat and high saturated fatty foods such as desserts, pastries and butter. A recent study at Rush University found that following the MIND diet can produce encouraging results including improved cognitive function and lowered risks and progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Components of the MIND Diet There are fifteen food components associated with the MIND diet: “10 healthy brain foods” and “five foods to avoid.”

Healthy Brain Foods - Green leafy vegetables; at least one serving per day (one serving is 1 cup cooked or raw vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups leafy salad greens) - Other vegetables; at least one per day (one serving is ½ cup cooked) - Nuts; at least a one ounce serving per day - Berries at least twice a week; preferably blueberries or strawberries (one serving is 1 cup or about the size of a baseball) - Beans; three to four servings per week (one serving is 1/4 cup cooked) - Whole grains; at least three servings per day (one serving is a slice of bread, ½ cup cooked pasta, rice or cooked cereal; 1 ounce dry pasta or rice; 1 cup ready to eat cereal flakes) - Fish; one or more servings per week (one serving is 3 ounces or about the size of a checkbook) - Poultry; at least two servings per week (one serving is 3 ounces cooked or roughly the size of a deck of cards) - Olive oil; should be the primary oil consumed - Wine; one glass per day (5 ounces)

Foods to Limit or Avoid - Red meats; rarely consume - Butter and stick margarine; no more than one tablespoon per day; avoid margarine - Cheese; one serving or less per week - Pastries and sweets; avoid all - Fried foods; less than one serving per week

The recent MIND diet study, while observational in nature, lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by almost 53% in participants who adhered to the diet strictly, and by about 35% in those who followed the diet moderately well. Causal effects of this particular diet pattern require further randomized dietary intervention trials.

The MIND diet is based upon components of both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, both of which have gone through numerous randomized clinical trials with the outcomes showing positive cardiovascular health benefits. It places an emphasis on foods that have been shown to increase cognition and delay declines in brain function. Snacking on nuts, having a salad during the day plus an extra vegetable is within reach for many, making the diet easier to follow than the Mediterranean. Lean meats are already a staple in many people’s diets, as are fruits. Berries are the only fruits unique to the MIND diet because they contain nutrients that prevent, reduce and repair damage to brain cells.

Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is reduced the longer you adhere to the MIND diet. Remember to MIND your brain and eat up!

Written by: Tiffany Tanksley, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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