Brain health is a topic that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Unfortunately, the why behind my interest in this topic isn’t super pleasant.
In 2015, my mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. That same year, my grandfather (my mom’s dad) passed away after living with Alzheimer’s Disease for several years. Given that family history, I want to do what I can to prevent cognitive decline and keep my brain healthy for as long as possible.
This quest led me across some interesting articles and research on the MIND Diet.
The MIND Diet has been linked to preventing cognitive decline. The MIND Diet is based on two well known and well substantiated diets – the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
A study published in 2015 (1), found that even moderate adherence to the MIND Diet reduced the risk of developing dementia. This study followed 923 individuals between the ages of 58 and 98 for an average of 4.5 years. The study assessed the participants’ diet and cognitive function at regular intervals. Individuals who followed the MIND Diet closely saw a 53% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and those who followed the diet moderately well saw a 35% reduction.
It isn’t completely clear how the diet works but the folks who created the diet think that it works by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and infection. If inflammation is not properly regulated it can be quite harmful. Oxidative stress happens when free radicals (unstable molecules) accumulate in your body causing damage to cells. Inflammation and oxidative stress can be destructive to your brain.
Food to eat on the MIND Diet
- Green leafy veggies – 6+ servings per week
- All other veggies
- Berries – 2 times per week
- Nuts – 5 servings per week
- Olive oil should be your main cooking oil
- Whole grains – 3 servings per day
- Fish – 1 time per week
- Beans – 4 times per week
- Poultry – 2 times per week
- Wine – no more than 1 glass per day
Foods to avoid on the MIND Diet
- Butter & margarine – less than 1 tablespoon per day
- Cheese – less than 1 time per week
- Red meat – less than 3 times per week
- Fried foods – less than 1 time per week
- Pastries and sweets – no more than 4 times per week
Looking at my typical eating pattern, I follow the MIND Diet moderately close but could do better. How does your diet stack up?
(1) Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Barnes LL, Bennett D, Aggarwal N. MIND diet more predictive than DASH or Mediterranean diet scores. Alzheimers Dement. 2014;10(4):P166.