Diets are a dime a dozen. But while have probably heard of either the Mediterranean or DASH diet, you might be unfamiliar with the MIND diet.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has been shown to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet combines the principles of these two research-based diets. Research studies have shown benefits for brain health and lowered risks for certain neurological diseases associated with aging.
Combining the benefits of DASH and Mediterranean diets, here is everything you need to know about this healthy eating pattern.
What Is the MIND Diet?
The MIND diet is a dietary pattern that may help prevent cognitive decline. The MIND diet was created by scientists at Rush University Medical Center, and studies were funded by the National Institute on Aging.
The MIND diet combines aspects of the Mediterranean and DASH diets by emphasizing whole plant foods and limiting processed foods like red meats, sweets, and fried foods. The healthy eating pattern also gives specific recommendations for how much to eat of certain foods throughout the week like berries and green leafy vegetables.
How Does the MIND Diet Work?
Cognitive decline is multi-faceted, and researchers are constantly studying factors that impact risk. Research studies have shown dietary patterns have been associated with impacting cognitive decline risk.
Therefore, the MIND diet was designed to take specific foods from the Mediterranean and DASH diets that can positively affect brain health and focus on those within the combined diets to lower the risk of cognitive decline.
While there is no single way to guarantee zero risks of developing Alzheimer's or other chronic neurological declines, research from those following the MIND diet suggests this may protect against these.
Benefits of the MIND Diet
As the name suggests, most of the proposed health benefits associated with the MIND diet are associated with brain health. Heart health, weight loss, or inflammation are some popular focal points for dietary patterns, but focusing on brain health with diet is relatively new.
Dementia is now considered the sixth leading cause of death in the world, and as longevity is generally increasing in many countries, the need to preserve brain health through aging is growing.
Research from a 2015 study involved gathering data over 4.5 years from research participants aged between 58 to 98 years. Researchers found participants with high or even moderate adherence to the MIND diet were associated with a lowered risk for Alzheimer's disease.
From this data, researchers suggest following the MIND diet can help slow cognitive decline associated with age. A 2017 study found similar results: greater long term adherence to the diet was moderately associated with better verbal memory later in life.
The MIND diet will also provide some heart and other benefits associated with the Mediterranean and DASH diets. More research is ongoing to shed light on more benefits of the MIND diet.
MIND Diet Food List
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests the following food groups and list for following the MIND diet:
Limit intake of the following:
• Red meats
• Saturated fats
• Refined grains
• Added sugars
• Fried foods
MIND Diet Recipe Examples
Following the MIND diet does not have to be complicated or expensive. In general, MIND diet recipes are those that focus on vegetables (especially leafy greens), berries, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Protein choices are primarily fatty seafood or lean poultry.
US News outlines what a typical day following the MIND diet might look like:
• 6 ounces Greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup blueberries and 1/2 cup strawberries
• 1 slice whole-grain toast with half an avocado, mashed
• 1/3 cup almonds, unsalted
• 2 slices whole-wheat bread
• 3/4 cup cooked chicken breast
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 cup romaine lettuce
• 1 cup fresh cucumber slices
• 1/2 cup tomato wedges
• 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
• 1 teaspoon low-calorie Italian dressing
• Salad: with 1/2 cup arugula, 1/2 cup baby spinach, and 1 tablespoon vinaigrette dressing made with olive oil
• 3-ounce salmon topped with 1 teaspoon tarragon and 1 teaspoon mustard
• 1/2 cup couscous, 1/2 cup zucchini, and 4 asparagus spears
• 1 cup lima beans
• 5 ounces red wine (optional)
• 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Other foods to eat on the MIND diet include savory salmon cakes, simple barley salad, Vietnamese inspired quinoa salad, and seasonal vegetables with Thai orange sesame sauce.
The Bottom Line
The MIND diet places focus on eating more wholesome, plant-based foods. It also limits highly processed foods, such as fast food items rich in unhealthy fat, salt, and sugar. However, a glass of wine and other indulgences can fit in a balanced diet.
Following principles of the MIND diet may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's or other chronic neurological declines. Nonetheless, this style of healthy eating may improve brain, heart, and overall health.