What is the MIND Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

The MIND diet (Mediterranean Diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) underscores the importance of not depriving oneself of food but focusing on the right ones to decrease the chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

berries for the mind diet

We normally associate diets with weight reduction and enhancing good physical health to achieve the body’s optimal performance. Cutting down on certain fats and foods packed with sucrose or replacing certain proteins with vegetables or liquids are sometimes the popular option not only due to the desire to be healthy but also, to lose the excess poundage fast. Whatever the aim – the advantages and disadvantages, dieting has become a way of life for many.

Who would have thought however that dieting could also lead to better cognitive health? Or decrease the possibility of brain degeneration?


The origins of the MIND Diet

That seems to be the premise from the latest buzzword in the health and fitness world. A team of physicians from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago came out with the study that the fusion of two popular healthy eating plans can reduce the risk of brain degenerative ailments like Alzheimer, dementia and other brain memory dysfunctions especially of those who previously suffered from strokes and heart attacks.

Called the MIND diet, or the abbreviation of the Mediterranean Diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, this healthy eating plan underscores the importance of not depriving oneself of food but focusing on the right ones to decrease the chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

Developed in 2015 by the team of nutritional epidemiologist Dr. Martha Clare Morris, important elements of the Mediterranean and DASH were adopted with emphasis on certain foods that both diets greatly espoused: less frying and sweets, consuming poultry and fish, choosing fruits, and using olive oil. Interestingly though that both diets’ prime benefits were strengthening cardiovascular health and delaying the physical manifestations of aging.

While the test and study made by the physicians of Rush University have not made any correlations yet on the role of food, the environment and hereditary links on Alzheimer’s, the diet at least has helped in finding a way to reduce the risk of memory loss ailments which has hit millions of Americans.

So is there a difference between MIND diet with the Mediterranean and DASH diets?


Disparity between MIND Diet from Mediterranean and DASH

First, the Mediterranean diet, which obviously was adopted from the dietary practices of people on the Mediterranean coast, highly relied on foods such as fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Olive oil also plays a big part and drinking red wine, but red meat and processed foods such as sausages, white bread, cakes, cereals and the like are avoided. Said diet helps in longevity as this eating regimen protects the cells from damage – one factor in aging.

This type of diet also helps in prolonging the Telomeres, a chromosome that tells the longevity or proneness of the individual to chronic diseases – depending on the length of the Telomeres. Telomeres protect the DNA. Aside from lessening the effects of aging, the Mediterranean diet is also beneficial for diabetics, and those with cancer and heart diseases.

The DASH diet’s objective meanwhile is to treat or at least lower the risk of high blood pressure from occurring by focusing on foods that reduce the triggers. In this diet plan, low level of sodium is emphasized and the consumption of low dairy food fruits and vegetables. Poultry, fish, grains, and fish are also allowed, but they should be eaten moderately. Same with legumes, nuts and alcoholic beverages such as wine.

Both Mediterranean and DASH diets share similarities in focusing on fruits, vegetables, healthy oils like olive oil, legumes, drinking of wine but moderately and avoiding or limiting sweets, trans fat and processed foods.

These beneficial elements were adopted in the MIND diet, but certain disparities are evident.


MIND Diet, What Sets It Apart

In the MIND diet, while fruits, lean meats, dairy, wine, and other good yet healthy stuff are still incorporated, they are done so moderately or in very limited portions. For example, consuming fish should only be done once a week, in contrast to the Mediterranean diet which encourages eating fish on a daily basis, and fruits more or less should be limited to berries as they score high in ensuring brain health.

Aside from the differences, the MIND diet allows dairy products but stops short in encouraging the consumption of cheese and butter. Loading up on vegetables is the strategy of both Mediterranean and DASH, but in the MIND diet, green leafy vegetables are on the front seat – others not so much.

Drinking wine is not frowned upon, but only 1 glass per day.

Below are some of the types of food that should be eaten, and what to be avoided.


MIND diet foods

  • Berries, which should be eaten at least twice a week. Strawberries are also recommended for inclusion.
  • Fish, but should only be done so twice a week. Types of fish include those high in omega-3 like tuna and salmon.
  • Whole grains that score high in magnesium as they keep the brain cells healthy such as oats, brown rice and other healthy grains.
  • Green leafy vegetables as they are rich in Vitamin K. Recommended volume is six servings in a week.
  • Poultry such as chicken and turkey, preferably two servings per week and they should be steamed, baked or grilled as fried versions are not recommended in the MIND diet
  • Beans and legumes such as chickpeas, pinto beans and other varieties as they are packed with magnesium, which again aids in protecting brain cells. Four servings in a week are highly encouraged.
  • Olive oil, which should always be used in cooking and garnishing the food.
  • Red wine, but only one glass per day.
  • Nuts that are high in vitamin E and omega 3 such as pistachios, walnuts, and almonds.

Foods to Steer Clear from or Limit

  • All Fried foods
  • Butter or margarine
  • Sweets such as cakes, pies, pastries, ice creams among others. While consuming them is not entirely removed, consumption should only be restricted to five servings in a week.
  • Cheese, if it can’t be stopped then one serving per week at most.
  • Red meat. While depriving oneself is not good, limit intake to four servings at most.

While results of the full study will come out in 2021, testaments from previous examinations have shown the MIND diets positive impact. Based on reports published by Rush University Medical Center, it has lowered the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s diseases developing from 38 to 53 percent. Thus, this diet plan is not only nutritious but is scientifically tested to bring a good impact on the brain and physical health. And the recommended food and servings do not necessarily deprive oneself of enjoying nature’s bountiful harvest.

If its too difficult to adopt all the MIND diet strategies, following some also produce positive results.

So who should follow this? Anyone who is concerned with their cognitive health. It is, however, best for those who are in their 50s so as to make sure that their mental and brain health is in tip-top shape.

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