Dementia is a growing problem worldwide, with an estimated 47.5 million cases in 2015 and projected to rise to over 131 million by 2050. The good news is that we can help decrease our risk of developing dementia through lifestyle choices like diet. In this blog post, we’ll explore the MIND diet—a diet specifically designed to promote brain health—and how it can help reduce your risk of dementia.
What is the MIND Diet?
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Martha Clare Morris developed it, a nutritional epidemiologist from Rush University Medical Center, to specifically protect against cognitive decline and dementia. The MIND diet has 10 dietary components, 9 of which are foods to eat regularly and 1 to avoid. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Foods to eat regularly on the MIND diet
Green leafy vegetables: Think spinach, kale, collards, and other leafy greens. These are great for the brain because they’re high in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as magnesium, iron, folate, and antioxidant phytochemicals. aim for 6 or more servings per day.
Other vegetables: Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, squash, and sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamins A and C, as well as fiber and other nutrients. aim for 1-2 servings per day.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts—all nuts are good for you! They’re associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cognitive decline. You should aim for five servings per week.
Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. These delicious fruits are loaded with antioxidants and have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function. aim for 2 or more servings per day.
Whole grains: Whole grains like oats, whole wheat bread/pasta/rice/etc., quinoa, and barley. These complex carbs provide energy for the brain while also being rich in B vitamins and other nutrients. Aim for 3 servings per day.
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines —these fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for cognitive health. Aim for 1 serving per day.
Poultry: Chicken, turkey —both poultry options are low in saturated fat while being a great source of protein. Aim where 2 servings per day.
Olive oil: This healthy fat is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to protect against cognitive decline. Use freely when cooking.
Wine: Limited evidence suggests that moderate alcohol intake may be protective against cognitive decline. One glass per day for women, and 2 glasses per day for men.
Foods to avoid or limit on the MIND diet
Red meat: Red meat like beef, pork, and lamb — these meats are high in saturated fat, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Limit intake to 3 servings per week or less.
Butter & margarine: These products are high in saturated fat as well, so it’s best to limit them or avoid them altogether. Same guidelines as red meat apply here — 3 servings or less per week.
Cheese: Cheese can be high in both saturated fat and sodium , so choose low – fat / sodium varieties whenever possible. Limit intake to 1 serving per week or less.
Fried food: Fried food is discouraged, especially from fast-food restaurants. Limit your consumption to less than once per week.
Pastries and sweets: This includes most of the processed junk food and desserts like biscuits, brownies, snack cakes, doughnuts, candy and more. Try to limit these to no more than four times a week.
Following the MIND diet is a simple yet effective way to help protect your brain against cognitive decline and dementia. By including plenty of nutrient-rich foods like leafy greens, berries, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine while limiting your intake of red meat, butter & margarine cheeses, you can give your brain the fuel it needs to function at its best!