The Mind Diet specifically has been used as part of the research to identify if there is a connection between the nutrients we eat and our risk of Alzheimer’s.
Let’s learn more about the MIND diet.
The MIND Diet was formulated from the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet.
The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension which can help lower blood pressure.
The Mediterranean diet can reduce risk factors for heart health.
Regarding brain function, incorporating the MIND diet may help reduce cognitive decline.
“The research is in: Eating certain foods (and avoiding others) has been shown to slow brain aging by 7.5 years, and lessen the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease” (7).
Let’s review key parts of the MIND diet.
The Mind Diet to Strengthen the Brain and Cut Alzheimer’s Risk
“Greens are packed with nutrients linked to better brain health like folate, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids. And one serving a day has been shown to slow brain aging” (7).
Examples of cruciferous vegetables (leafy greens or green leafy vegetables) include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, brussels sprouts, collard greens, bok choy, and turnips.
Broccoli and kale are sometimes referred to as a superfood due to their nutrient and antioxidant properties.
Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, it is recommended to incorporate 4-5 servings of fruits and veggies per day.
The MIND diet recommends having at least six servings of green leafy vegetables during the week.
“In a 20-year study of over 16,000 older adults, those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had the slowest rates of cognitive decline. Researchers credit the high levels of flavonoids in berries with the benefit” (7).
Incorporate at least two servings of berries during the week to help cognitive function.
Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and or raspberries can be enjoyed in numerous ways, however, a favorite is adding them on top of non-fat Greek yogurt or even with a sweet treat of ice cream.
Peanuts are considered legumes, that are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin e, and resveratrol. Resveratrol is a non-flavonoid antioxidant, which may have positive effects in helping prevent cancer, inflammation, neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s (4).
Oxidative stress and inflammation play important roles in the aging process, such as dementia. Walnuts decrease oxidative stress by decreasing free radicals and boosting antioxidant defense (2).
Reducing the risk of dementia through dietary approaches is encouraging, however additional long-term research is needed to fully understand the connections of nuts and neurodegenerative delay.
A small handful of nuts packs additional nutrients, such as omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
When eating nuts as a snack make sure to have the unsalted or raw option to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure by reducing the sodium content.
Reducing the amount of red meat consumed per week can be beneficial for your heart health.
Opt for other sources of proteins with a ton of nutrients, not only for your heart but also for optimal brain health.
Beans, Lentils, and Soybeans
Beans, lentils, and soybeans are rich in protein and fiber, which can assist with keeping you full and satisfied. This can aid in weight management or even weight loss.
In addition, protein and fiber can keep your blood sugar levels stabilized.
They are rich in B vitamins which may aid in a slower rate of cognitive decline.
When adding fiber-rich food sources to your meal plan, gradually increase the servings to prevent gastrointestinal discomfort.
The Mediterranean diet staple is olive oil and is the main ingredient to this diet style.
It is high in monounsaturated fat which benefits your heart health.
“In 2016, some scientists suggested that including extra virgin olive oil in the diet may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to its protective impact on blood vessels in the brain” (3).
When available aim to use this oil during cooking or even as a salad dressing.
Omega 3 is found in fatty fish and can be a great addition to your weekly meal plan. Aim to incorporate at least one serving per week. Be sure to add herbs and spices to make it even more delicious.
Some examples include anchovies, herring, trout, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna.
While evidence shows drinking alcohol in excess is not good and could increase risk factors for health conditions, there may be some support to having one glass of wine or a serving of alcohol per day.
However, if you are not a drinker, it is not a good idea to start based on this, since more research is needed to connect alcohol and brain function.
The MIND diet focuses on increasing servings of whole grains such as brown rice, green leafy vegetables, other veggies, berries, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts, while decreasing red meat, fried or fast food, butter, cheese, and sugar or sweets.
The MIND diet is a more flexible approach compared to just following the Mediterranean diet or dash diets, which makes it easier to adhere to it for a long time.
“The research on specific foods and eating patterns for reversing dementia is limited. However, there is some research that suggests certain eating patterns may play a role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia.
The Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and MIND diet have all been studied for their role in the prevention of dementia with some promising results. At this time, more research is needed to understand the preventative effects of these diets.” (5)
“Observational studies indicate that the MIND diet may be more protective against cognitive decline and AD than the Mediterranean and DASH diets but more evidence on the MIND diet is required to draw a firm conclusion” (8).
According to new research, “our results suggest that incorporating oxidative-stress reducing antioxidants and vitamins, iron-chelating nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids in daily dietary intake may slow age-related accumulation of non-heme brain iron concentration and cognitive declines.
Future longitudinal dietary-intervention studies will be required to test this possibility” (6).
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
While we can’t change our genetics, we can incorporate a healthy lifestyle to help assist with the potential decline in cognitive impairment.
“More research is likely to come, but findings are consistent with recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains, and decreased consumption of saturated fats” (8).
A healthy lifestyle, such as a healthy diet, physical activity, staying hydrated, focusing on getting an adequate amount of sleep, and reducing stress can be the best protection when it comes to your brain health and overall health.
In addition, lifestyle changes can be a great way to potentially reduce medications needed for chronic diseases.
Keep in mind more does not always mean better, the important part is to incorporate moderation to achieve your health and wellness goals!
- 15 simple diet tweaks that could cut your Alzheimer’s risk. (2019, April 19). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/15-simple-diet-tweaks-cut-alzheimers-risk/art-20342112
- Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. (2020, February 1). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071526/
- Brazier, Y. (2019, December 18). What are the health benefits of olive oil? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266258#benefits
- Burgess, L. (2020, January 2). 12 foods to boost brain function. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324044#summary
- Gordon, B. (2021). Nutrition Concerns for Individuals with Dementia. Eatright. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthy-aging/nutrition-concerns-for-individuals-with-dementia
- Healthy dietary intake moderates the effects of age on brain iron concentration and working memory performance. (2021, October 1). ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458021002104
- Improve brain health with the MIND diet. (2019, July 31). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/improve-brain-health-with-the-mind-diet/art-20454746
- The Mediterranean, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diets Are Associated with Less Cognitive Decline and a Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease—A Review. (2019, November 1). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6855954/
- Pike, R. A. D. (2019, April 15). What is the MIND diet? Food Insight. https://foodinsight.org/what-is-the-mind-diet/