The MIND Diet: Foods for Brain Power & Alzheimer’s
Explore brain healthy foods from the MIND diet
Written by Emily Chow, University of Alberta Student in the Nutrition and Food Science program at the University of Alberta and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team
In this blog post, I’ll be guiding you on what the MIND diet is, the research-based findings and benefits of the MIND diet, a food list for the MIND diet to help you get started, and information on if the MIND diet is right for you!
Don’t forget to comment your thought and questions below!
What is the MIND diet?
The MIND diet is a research backed eating plan that is becoming more and more popular. The MIND diet promotes a healthy brain and reduces the risk of age-related brain disorders. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and is based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension). This diet contains foods for brain power and an emphasis on whole foods while avoiding highly processed foods. Continue reading to find out if the MIND diet is for you!
The MIND diet for Alzheimer’s
Protective against Alzheimer’s disease
- Although there is no evidence that the MIND diet can reverse Alzheimer’s disease, there is research that shows it can reduce the risk of it.
- One study has shown that the MIND diet had a significant reduction of Alzheimer’s in people over 60.
- Studies have shown than the MIND diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53%.
Slower cognitive decline
- There is evidence that suggests that the MIND diet slows cognitive decline with age as discussed in this article.
- A cohort study of 826 older adults completed a MIND diet pattern over 4 years. The results showed a slower cognitive decline associated with the dietary patterns of the MIND diet.
- A trial has shown that eating brain healthy foods for 12 weeks can decrease inflammation and improves function of endothelial cells.
- The primary source of fat in the MIND diet is olive oil, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
- One study found that the foods associated with the MIND diet, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, can lead to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Food List for MIND Diet
Leafy green vegetables
Aim for one serving of leafy greens every day. These include spinach, kale, collard greens and cabbage. They have been linked to slowing cognitive decline, especially in older adults. Keep in mind that the darker the greens, the more antioxidants they contain.
Eat berries at least twice a week. Many berries have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins are pigments in berries and have been shown to protect brain cells.
Aim for a half-cup of nuts 5 times per week. Nuts are a sources of omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and natural antioxidants, which all contribute to a healthy brain.
Select olive oil as a primary low-heat cooking oil. It is packed with many polyphenols, especially in virgin olive oils. Studies have shown the polyphenol oleocanthal has protective effects against early Alzheimer’s disease stages and can help in restoring the blood-brain barrier.
The MIND diet recommends three servings of whole grains per day. Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain; the husk, bran and endosperm. Some whole grain sources include brown rice, barley, quinoa and even popcorn.
Consider eaing fish at least once a week. Choose fatty fishes because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content. Fatty fishes include sardines, salmon, mackerel and tuna. While fish is healthy to eat Health Canada suggests being mindful of certain types of fish to reduce mercury exposure as discussed here: Mercury in Fish
Include 4 or more servings of legumes each week. Beans, lentils, chickpeas can be easily added to meals. Legumes provide the brain with glucose, which is the preferred energy source for the brain. Glucose levels are linked to thinking and memory. They also provide fibre and are excellent sources of a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
The MIND diet can include a glass of wine per day, but don’t start drinking if you don’t normally drink it. The best wine for the MIND diet is red wine. Red wine contains many polyphenols, including resveratrol, which have been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Consider choosing non-fried, skinless poultry at least twice a week as this is a lean protein option.
Foods to Limit on the MIND Diet
The MIND diet encourages limiting foods high in industrial produced trans fats (previously found in baked goods, shortening and hard margarine). Trans fats have been associated with many diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Health Canada banned the use of industrial produced trans fats and this has substantially reduced the intake of these foods for Canadians.
Eating a diet heavily emphasizing meats, fried foods and sweets can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s. While all foods can fit in a balanced diet, The MIND diet advocates for reducing high consumption of red meat, fried foods, cheese, margarine/butter, and pastries/sweets.
Should you try the MIND diet?
Although the MIND is generally safe for most of the population, it is a good idea to speak with your Dietitian or health professional before proceeding. This diet does not have any demographic limitations; therefore most people can benefit from this diet. Most studies involving the MIND diet have shown to be most beneficial for older adults. If you have a family history of brain-related disorders, this diet can be a promising option. Since this diet is fairly new, more research is needed for long-term effects.
In summary, the MIND diet can support a healthy brain, especially in older adults. Following the MIND diet can be very beneficial for you and lead to an overall healthier life. Remember you can still be very healthy without following a strict diet. All foods fit in a balanced eating regime.
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Want to learn more about different types of diets? Check these out!
Brought to you by our friendly Registered Dietitian team at Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. For more balanced living advice check out our RESOURCE MEGA BANK of nutrition articles, videos, healthy recipes, newsletters and meal planning kits here: www.healthstandnutrition.com/personal-nutrition/resource-mega-bank/