Could there actually be a diet that can prevent degenerative diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease? There actually is and it’s called the MIND diet or the Mediterranean-DASH diet, which is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. The idea is that, when eating this kind of diet, you can protect the brain cells from dying and decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s dementia.
The idea behind the MIND diet is that you eat from the following food groups: vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, beans, poultry, fish, wine, and olive oil. The foods you stay strictly away from include butter, cheeses, stick margarine, red meat, fried food, fast foods, sweets, and pastries.
This diet was first developed in 2015 by a nutritional epidemiologist at the Rush University Medical Center, Martha Clare Morris. She worked with a team of researchers to follow the food eaten by 923 elderly people over the age of 65 years old. They looked at these people’s diets for 4 ½ years and found that 144 of the people in the study developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Those participants who followed the MIND diet had a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Even those people who changed their diet moderately to approximate the MIND diet had a decrease in the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
They found that the risk for Alzheimer’s disease dropped by 35% in those people who moderately followed the diet and dropped by 53% in those who strictly adhered to the diet.
This wasn’t the only study to show that diet was related to brain performance. One study found that those who ate at least two helpings of vegetables per day, especially green leafy vegetables had better performance on mental tests. Studies on animals showed that those animals who ate berries performed better on memory testing. Large studies on people showed that eating just one meal of fish per week decreased the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.
The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The researchers who developed the diet based it on the DASH diet, which is usually used in those with high blood pressure and the Mediterranean Diet, which is usually used to prevent heart disease.
The original paper outlining the diet published their research findings in the medical journal, Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
What the Mind Diet Looks Like
In the MIND Diet, you need to concentrate on eating these types of foods as part of a healthy diet:
- At least one serving of vegetables per day
- Green leafy vegetables, at least six servings a week
- Nuts, especially tree nuts, like almonds and walnuts
- Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole grain breads
- Beans, such as kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans
- Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, which are high in antioxidants
- Wine, particularly red wine, which is high in resveratrol
- Olive oil, which can be used in cooking foods or as a dressing
- Poultry, such as turkey or Chicken
- Fish, especially those cold-water fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids.
The foods you stay away from include the following:
- Red meat, such as comes from beef and perhaps from pork
- Cheese, of which there are many kinds to avoid
- Butter and stick margarine, which are high in saturated fats
- Fast food or fried food, which is high in saturated fats
- Pastries and sweets, including candy and doughnuts
Every day, you need to eat at least one green leafy salad, three servings of whole grains, and at least one vegetable (raw or cooked). You need to have just one glass of wine with one of your meals. Snacking is allowed as long as you stick to the diet.
Nuts make for good snacks on this type of diet. Beans are eating every other day and fish is eaten once a week. Berries and poultry are eaten about twice per week. Any of the foods considered unhealthy should be eaten at less than one time per week.
The use of berries is particularly important on this MIND diet. Blueberries especially ae packed in antioxidants, which help protect the brain.
Strawberries are also potent and contain large amounts of antioxidants. It seems that if you stick to the diet at least moderately and eat most of the foods on the diet, your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease decreases significantly.