The MIND diet was developed in 2015 by Rush University nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues. The MIND diet is a scientifically proven eating plan that aims to protect brain function and prevent neurodegeneration, including age-related cognitive decline and dementia. They also believe it reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals accumulate in the body in large amounts. This often causes damage to cells. The brain is especially vulnerable to this type of damage. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury and infection. But if it’s not properly regulated, inflammation can also be harmful and contribute to many chronic diseases.
Studies have shown a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as slowed cognitive decline. A 2021 study found that the MIND diet slowed the rate of cognitive decline in people who had experienced a stroke. Additionally, a 2022 study found that middle-aged adults who closely adhered to the MIND diet had faster information processing speeds than those who did not closely follow the diet.
The MIND Diet Combines the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet
Many experts regard the Mediterranean and DASH diets as two of the healthiest diets. Research has shown that they can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several other diseases. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.”
The MIND Diet also differs from the Mediterranean and DASH diets it focuses on boosting cognitive function. It doesn’t emphasize consuming fish or fruit as much as the others do. Also, it includes wine because a moderate intake is linked to brain health.
Following the Mediterranean and DASH diets has been associated with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation. Researchers also believe the MIND diet may benefit the brain by reducing potentially harmful beta-amyloid proteins.
Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet
The MIND focuses on increasing your intake of high-nutrient foods (vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains, fish, and poultry) and minimizing high-sodium foods (meats, fried foods, and sweets).
Green, Leafy Vegetables: Spinach, kale, arugula, salads, collard greens, Swiss chard, and turnip greens are rich in folate, lutein, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other nutrients that protect cognition. Recommended servings: At least seven a week.
Other Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, okra, or squash. Still, an extra serving each day won’t hurt. Recommended servings: At least one a day.
Whole Grains: Oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat pasta, and 100% whole wheat bread. They’re also a great source of fiber, which helps the digestive tract and blood sugar regulation. Recommended servings: At least three a day.
Beans: Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans, soybeans, and lentils are great sources of protein, and excellent sources of B vitamins, which promote brain health. Recommended servings: At least three a week.
Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and promote heart health and brain health. Recommended servings: At least one serving of fish a week.
Poultry: Chicken or turkey are lean sources of protein. Recommended servings: At least two servings of poultry (not fried) a week.
Nuts: Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are good for the brain, and are rich sources of vitamin E, B vitamins, healthy fats, as well as minerals (such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium). Recommended servings: At least five a week.
Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and acai berries all have antioxidant benefits. Recommended servings: At least two a week.
Olive Oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
Wine: Both red and white wine may benefit your brain. A study involving over 5,000 men and women in Norway found that regular, light-to-moderate wine consumption was associated with better performance on cognitive tests seven years later, while the same effects weren’t found among those who regularly consumed beer or spirits. Recommended servings: One glass a day.
Foods to Avoid
Omit or limit the following foods on the diet.
Butter and Margarine: Eat less than 1 tablespoon daily. Use olive oil as your primary cooking fat and dip your bread in olive oil with herbs.
Cheese: Eat cheese less than once per week.
Red Meat: Beef, pork, lamb, and products made from these meats. No more than three servings per week.
Fried Food: The MIND diet highly discourages fried food, especially the kind from fast-food restaurants. Limit your consumption to less than once per week.
Sweets: Processed snack foods and desserts — ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, doughnuts, candy, and more. Try to limit these to no more than four times per week.
The MIND diet limits foods that contain saturated fats and trans fats, which studies have shown can increase beta-amyloid protein levels in the brains of mice. Studies have found that consuming these fats is associated with a doubled risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re looking for a way of eating that focuses on maintaining brain health as you age, the MIND diet is a great approach that’s simple to follow.