The MIND Diet for Dementia: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

As we age, we often adjust our diets to improve heart health or protect against cancer and conditions like Type 2 diabetes. Less often do we build our diets around our mind and improved cognitive function.
But that’s what the aptly named MIND diet is all about. It focuses on a range of brain-friendly foods that may boost brainpower while protecting against cognitive issues that tend to hamper us as we age. 

What is the MIND diet?

MIND is an acronym that stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the acronym combines the Mediterranean diet with the DASH diet, which is exactly what the diet itself combines.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates different aspects of healthy eating that align with areas bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Think fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, olive oil over butter and herbs over salt. The DASH diet, which was developed to treat or prevent high blood pressure, is light on sugar, sweets, and sodium and heavy on fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts and grains, among other healthy, whole foods.
The MIND diet emphasizes minimally processed whole-and plant-based foods. It limits animal-based foods that are high in saturated fats, dairy products high in fat content, and foods with added sugars.

What can I eat on the MIND diet?

The food groups recommended in the MIND diet are rich in fiber and packed with an array of nutrients linked to better brain health, like vitamin E; omega-3 fatty acids; folate; carotenoids and flavonoids.
  • Beans: Four or more servings per week.
  • Berries: Two or more servings per week.
  • Poultry: Two or more servings per week.
  • Whole grains: Three servings or more per day.
  • Leafy greens: At least one daily serving of veggies like collard greens, kale and spinach.
  • Fish: One or more serving per week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines
  • Nuts: Five or more servings per week of nuts, specifically walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and other nuts loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Olive oil: Daily.
  • Other non-green vegetables: Two or more servings per day.

What should I avoid eating on the MIND diet?

  • Butter/stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Fried and fast food
  • Red meat like pork and steak
  • Sweets and pastries

Does the MIND Diet work?

Studies have linked the MIND diet to a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, even if not meticulously followed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The diet was developed in 2015 by Dr. Martha Clare Morris and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Morris and the team at Rush found that after an average of 4.5 years, people who adhered most closely to the MIND diet had a 53% reduced rate of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not follow the diet closely.
Those who moderately adhered to the diet had a 35% reduction in risk, according to Rush’s study. Another study currently being conducted with more than 600 senior adults in Chicago and Boston will test the MIND diet’s impact on cognitive decline.
Aging is the biggest risk factor for dementia. However, aside from just diet there are lifestyle tweaks you can make to reduce your own personal risk. They include:
Read more about Alzheimer’s and dementia:
Photo credit: Getty Images

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