American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


The new MIND diet

brain mazeThere is a new diet in town, the MIND diet, and it promises to keep our brains sharp and healthy throughout our old age. Surprisingly it may actually deliver on that promise.

Despite what commercials and headlines scream at us every day, there are only three diets that have been proven time and again, in study after study, to improve our long-term health. The Mediterranean Diet, The DASH Diet (Dietary Advances to Stop Hypertension), and a vegan diet (basically the Ornish diet).

Researchers have combined the Mediterranean and DASH diets, taking the “brain healthiest” aspects of each one, and developed a diet that appears to slow down the aging of our brain. They call it the MIND diet.

The people who followed this diet plan the closest had brains that averaged 7.5 years younger than those who followed it the least. That’s a big difference. There are so few things we can do medically to treat dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and general age-related memory loss that focusing on prevention is incredibly smart.

The best thing about this diet is that it keeps the heart-healthy parts of the other diets and just adds a focus on foods that have been proven to be good for our brains. Our brains and cardiovascular systems are linked so closely that it makes sense the same foods would keep each one healthy.

Interested in trying the MIND diet? Here’s how:

Every day:

  1. have at least one green leafy vegetable like spinach, kale, broccoli, salad
  2. have at least one other vegetable serving – if you work with me you are already eating more veggies than this!
  3. three servings of whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, wheat berries, polenta/ grits or corn
  4. a handful of nuts
  5. drink a glass of wine (one for women, 1-2 for men)
  6. use mostly olive oil for cooking and dressings

At least three times a week eat:

  1. Beans – I recommend even more than this to keep blood sugar low too
  2. Berries, all kinds are great
  3. Poultry or fish, try poultry two times and fish once a week

Limit these foods:

  1. red meat (less than twice a week)
  2. butter and margarine, less than 1Tbs. per day
  3. cheese less than once a week
  4. pastries and sweets less than five times a week
  5. fried or fast food less than once a week

Its really easy once you get the hang of it. Picture yourself in an Italian villa or on a Greek island, shopping at the local farmers market and eating what you can easily cook yourself. Fresh greens and vegetables cooked and dressed simply with lemon, garlic and olive oil. Whole grains and beans that simmer lazily on the stove and keep for days in the fridge, and a whole grain loaf that you pick up at the bakery. Nuts for snacks, and a glass of wine to enjoy with dinner.

For the best brain health, be sure to move your body as much as you can every day and try to figure out a puzzle or learn a new skill. Use it or lose it really is true.

If you want some help putting this diet to work for you, just let me know. I love teaching people how to eat this way!

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