May 26, 2022

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Definition, purpose, and meal plan

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The MIND diet encourages the consumption of certain foods and the avoidance of others to help prevent or delay cognitive decline. It incorporates elements from other diets to promote healthy eating patterns that may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cognitive impairment refers to difficulty with memory, learning, or thought processing. Although many people may consider this a normal part of aging, it is not inevitable. In 2021, Alzheimer’s disease, which causes cognitive decline, ranked sixth on the list of the leading causes of death in the United States. As such, it is important to maintain brain health, which can involve following a nutritious, well-balanced diet.

The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets, and it has shown promise for preventing cognitive decline. With a few simple dietary alterations, individuals following this diet plan can take steps to maintain brain health and help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

In this article, we discuss the MIND diet in more detail, including which foods to include and avoid. We also provide an example of a suitable meal plan.

The MIND diet uses aspects of both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. Previous research suggested that these dietary patterns may help preserve cognitive function. As such, Martha Clare Morris combined the diets to create the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND, diet.

A traditional Mediterranean diet primarily consists of grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fish. People can also include small amounts of meat, eggs, dairy, and alcohol. The DASH diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. A person can also eat whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts but should limit their intake of saturated fats, red meat, and sugars.

The MIND diet combines these dietary patterns by encouraging the consumption of many plant-based foods, in addition to fish and poultry, while attempting to avoid saturated fats and added sugars. The diet mostly differs due to its focus on daily and weekly recommendations for specific foods and food groups.

For example, it recommends 2 or more servings of vegetables a day but notes that at least 1 serving should be leafy green vegetables.

Evidence suggests that the MIND diet can help lower Alzheimer’s disease risk by about 53% or 35%, depending on whether a person follows the diet strictly or moderately well. Although more research is necessary to confirm these findings, this diet may be a promising strategy to help prevent or delay cognitive decline. However, it is advisable to discuss any dietary changes with a doctor before implementing them.

The intention behind the MIND diet is to help improve brain function and contribute toward cognitive resilience in older adults. Evidence notes that healthy lifestyle factors, such as a high quality diet, can provide health benefits for the brain. As such, following this diet may help slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

For example, a 2022 study notes that better adherence to the MIND diet is associated with a lower risk of dementia. Similarly, a 2021 study reports that the MIND diet can improve cognitive function scores in high risk groups. Alongside exercise and cognitive training programs, these dietary patterns could be a useful tool against dementia.

Additionally, other evidence shows a potential link between closely following the MIND diet and a slower rate of cognitive decline after a stroke.

Evidence suggests that the MIND diet may offer multiple benefits for a range of individuals. In addition to helping reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it may aid in preventing cardiovascular disease and even some forms of cancer.

Many factors may increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Although people cannot change some risk factors, such as age and genetics, they can control others, including exercise, cognitive training, and diet. The authors of a 2019 review note that certain diets, such as the MIND diet, may help protect the brain due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Similarly, both the Mediterranean and DASH diets show promise for promoting cardiovascular health. As the MIND diet incorporates elements of both diets, it is also likely beneficial for heart health.

A 2021 study also identified a link between following the MIND diet and a lower risk of developing breast cancer. However, more research is necessary to explore the links between diet and cancer.

Current evidence does not associate the MIND diet with any risks of its own. However, it is advisable for people to discuss the diet with a medical professional to determine whether it is suitable for them.

Some of the recommended foods in the MIND diet may not be appropriate for everyone to eat, due to allergies, intolerances, or dietary preferences. In these cases, a person may wish to discuss potential alternative diet plans with a doctor or dietitian.

The MIND diet lists 15 dietary components to eat or avoid. The 10 types of foods that people on the MIND diet can eat are:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • all other vegetables
  • berries
  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • whole grains
  • fish
  • beans
  • poultry
  • wine

There are also recommendations for how often people on the MIND diet should eat the above foods. For example, in addition to daily vegetables, a person should aim to eat 3 or more servings of minimally processed whole grains per day and 2 or more servings of berries per week.

The MIND diet also specifies types of foods to avoid. As it may not always be possible to avoid these foods altogether, people should aim to limit them as much as is feasible.

People should aim to include:

  • less than 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine a day
  • less than 1 cheese serving per week
  • fewer than 4 portions of red meat a week
  • less than 1 serving of fast food or fried food items a week, on average
  • fewer than 5 servings of pastries and candies per week

At present, there are no set guidelines on following the MIND diet. Instead, the aim is for people to consume more of the 10 recommended foods and less of the five that are not so nutritious. As such, a meal plan may include:

Breakfast

Oatmeal is a practical option for breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal meets the MIND diet’s requirements for whole grains, and people can add toppings such as fresh blueberries and walnuts to add vitamins and minerals.

Lunch

For lunch, a suitable option is a pasta salad that a person can prepare ahead of time. They can start with a base of whole wheat pasta and add extra ingredients, such as spinach, tomato, cucumber, and chickpeas. They can then drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over it and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper to complete the meal.

Snacks

Nuts can be a convenient snack to eat on the go. Alternatively, a person could have a piece of whole wheat bread with a thin layer of nut butter on it.

Dinner

For a substantial and nutritious dinner, people can bake some lean chicken breast with fresh herbs and then coat it with a squeeze of fresh lemon. They can serve it with a side of quinoa and kale.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It encourages the consumption of certain foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and poultry, while limiting other foods, such as those high in saturated fats and added sugars. This flexible eating pattern focuses on daily and weekly recommendations for specific foods and food groups.

Although more research is still necessary, some evidence suggests that the MIND diet is associated with lower rates of cognitive decline, which may aid in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This dietary pattern may complement other healthy lifestyle factors, such as exercise and cognitive training, in helping protect brain health.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mind-diet