By Shalini Singh
The MIND Diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a combination of foods from both the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Past research has shown that the Mediterranean and DASH diets are some of the healthiest diets as they lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease among other conditions.
With the ultimate purpose of preventing dementia and a loss of brain function with age, the MIND Diet works by reducing oxidative stress along with inflammation. Oxidative stress is a reflection of an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This harmful process leads to cell and tissue damage, which are large contributing factors in the brain’s aging cycle. In addition, inflammation is simply the body’s response to common injuries and infections. Therefore, the MIND diet consists of many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods since it reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
The MIND Diet is outlined by 10 main foods:
Green, leafy vegetables: Sources of fiber, vitamins C and K, minerals, and antioxidants. The MIND diet recommends 6 or more servings of green, leafy vegetables per week.
Other vegetables: In addition to green leafy vegetables, the diet encourages the consumption of at least one other vegetable each day. Vegetables with low amounts of starch are great options because they contain many important nutrients at a low amount of calories.
Berries: Because berries are packed with antioxidants, the MIND diet encourages the consumption berries over other fruits. It is recommended to have at least two servings of berries each week.
Nuts: Nuts are an important part of the MIND diet as each type contains crucial nutrients, especially for the brain. For example, walnuts (which coincidentally look like brains!) are excellent for brain health as they contain high levels of DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid that happens to be a primary structural component of the human brain. At least 5 servings of nuts per week should be consumed.
Olive Oil: The MIND diet recommends that all cooking should be done with olive oil as it has been found to contain a compound that has anti-inflammatory effects along with the ability to prevent the narrowing of blood vessels.
Whole Grains: Whole grains contain are rich in vitamin B, which works to reduce brain inflammation. Some common whole grains include oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice. Three servings of these should be consumed daily.
Fish: Fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, should be consumed at least once a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties among other things that are beneficial for brain health.
Beans: The MIND Diet outlines this category as all beans, lentils, and soybeans. Beans are also packed with antioxidant properties, and it is recommended to consume beans at least 4 times per week.
Poultry: Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, contains many brain-benefitting compounds. Most importantly, it also contains vitamins B6 and B12, which are anti-inflammatory vitamins. Consumption of poultry should range from at least once or twice a week while trying to avoid cooking it in excessive oils/fats.
Wine: There is much research on the relationship between wine and brain health. In fact, it has been found that the compound of resveratrol in red wine might protect against Alzheimers. However, excessive alcohol consumption leads to brain damage. Therefore, the MIND diet recommends that no more than one glass a day should be consumed.
Since this diet has been formulated by scientists, it is certainly scientifically proven that these foods can improve brain health and function, therefore preventing and reducing the risk of dementia. Even if some areas of the diet cannot be followed, all foods listed above are associated with a reduced risk in the loss of brain function. Either way, maintaining a healthy diet, regardless if it is the MIND Diet, is the first step in ensuring a healthy brain!