MIND Diet Plan Benefits: Can It Really Help Stave Off Alzheimer’s?

According to recent research, at least one in three Alzheimer’s
disease cases worldwide is preventable. One of the closest things we
know of to a natural Alzheimer’s treatment is a healthy,
anti-inflammatory diet. That’s because foods like vegetables, fruit,
nuts and fish are high in antioxidants, healthy fats and other
phytochemicals that help protect the brain from disease.

to many studies, the Mediterranean and DASH diets have the ability to
slow aging and cognitive decline in older adults. For years, both of
these diets have been considered two of the best for protecting against
diseases related to aging, inflammation and oxidative stress. For
example, many studies have found that the Mediterranean diet and DASH
diet can be helpful for lowering adults’ risk for high blood pressure,
high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, PCOS and a
number of age-related neurological conditions.

Given the
anti-aging effects that these two diets have to offer, it’s no surprise
that elements of both are now being combined in order to boost
mental/cognitive health in those who are most susceptible.
What Is the MIND Diet?

MIND diet — short for the Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for
Neurodegenerative Delay diet — is a healthy eating plan that has the
goal of lowering your risk for cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s
disease and dementia.

The MIND diet (also sometimes called the
Med-DASH plan) was first introduced in 2016. It is based on principles
of both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (which stands for
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or in other words high blood
pressure diet). The DASH diet and Mediterranean diet have both been
named at one time the “#1 best overall diet” in the United States by
U.S. News and World Report.

What does the MIND diet consist of?
Just like the two eating plans it combines, the MIND diet includes lots
of “brain foods” that boost focus and memory — such as leafy greens,
berries, nuts, olive oil and fatty fish. Examples of MIND diet recipes
might include salmon cooked in olive oil with wilted greens and quinoa
or oatmeal topped with almonds and blueberries.
MIND Diet Benefits
Studies show that MIND diet benefits include:

  • Reducing oxidative stress/free radical damage
  • Helping lower inflammation
  • Protecting against dementia, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Protecting against other chronic health problems that are common among
    aging adults, such as heart disease, weight gain and metabolic syndrome
  • Improving blood sugar
  • Lowering risk for obesity
  • Improving mobility and quality of life

How the MIND Diet Can Help Reduce Dementia and Alzheimer’s Risk

MIND diet is valued most for its ability to support brain function and
reduce neurodegeneration (the progressive loss of structure or function
of neurons, including death of neurons).

A 2015 study published
in Alzheimer’s and Dementia (the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association)
that followed over 900 adults found that those who ate in a similar way
to the MIND diet had a 53 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s
disease compared to the adults who ate very differently than the MIND
diet. Another positive finding was that adults didn’t have to stick to
the MIND diet perfectly or be very strict with themselves to see real
benefits. Even those who only “moderately” followed the MIND diet were
found to have about a 35 percent reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease,
on average.

Another study found that the “difference in decline
rates for being in the top tertile of MIND diet scores versus the lowest
was equivalent to being 7.5 years younger in age.” This suggests that
the MIND diet substantially slows cognitive decline with age.

brain is very susceptible to the effects of oxidative stress,
especially as someone ages. This is partially responsible for loss of
memory, learning capacity, mood stabilization, etc. What is one food
that fights dementia and protects the aging brain? There are actually a
number of foods that have been shown to help support memory and brain
function, especially those high in protective antioxidants, such as
strawberries and blueberries (which contain flavonoids like
anthocyanidins), olive oil, dark chocolate, and green tea (which contain

For example, according to the large study called
the Nurse’s Healthy Study, anthocyanidins and flavonoids found in plant
foods like berries are associated with slower rates of cognitive
decline. This particular study found that frequent berry consumption may
help delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.

believe that high-antioxidant foods included in the MIND diet positively
impact learning, memory and cognition. Here are some of the reasons

They protect aging neurons against the negative impact of
stress-related cellular signals, increasing the capacity of neurons to
maintain proper functioning during aging.
A key component of the
MIND diet, green leafy vegetables like kale or spinach, are believed to
protect the brain because they contain high levels of compounds that
fight oxidative stress. Antioxidants found in dark leafy greens include
lutein, zeaxanthin, phenols and flavonoids.
The MIND diet encourages
consumption of healthy fats that fuel the brain, such as fish like
salmon and certain nuts/seeds like walnuts or flaxseed that contain
omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that
support the neurological and immune systems, and healthy fats in general
(including some cholesterol) are important for brain health because
they help form neuron connections and also help manage levels of blood
glucose (sugar).
Foods that are brightly colored — like carrots,
tomatoes, kale and sweet potatoes, which all contain carotenoid
antioxidants — may help prevent the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in
the brain. Beta-amyloids are proteins that can build up in the brain,
forming plaque deposits and neurofibrillary tangles that are thought to
contribute to the degradation of the nerve cells. Production and
accumulation of beta-amyloids in the brain are now believed to be a
major contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease.

Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet

What can you eat on the MIND diet? The MIND diet emphasizes these healthy food groups:

  • Vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach, kale, etc.
  • All other fresh vegetables are also included, such as cruciferous
    veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, tomatoes, carrots,
    mushrooms, green beans, etc.
  • Fresh fruit, especially all
    types of berries, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries,
    blackberries, cherries, cranberries, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, chia seeds and flaxseeds
  • Beans and legumes, such as chickpeas, black beans, lentils, etc.
  • 100 percent whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, barley, farro, 100 percent whole-wheat breads, etc.
  • Fish, particularly wild-caught, fatty fish like like salmon,
    sardines, halibut, trout, tuna and mackerel, which are the best sources
    of omega-3 fats
  • Lean meats like poultry, ideally that are pasture-raised and not breaded or fried
  • Olive oil, which is used as the “main cooking oil” and can also be drizzled over salad, veggies, etc.

addition to the foods above, the MIND diet allows room for about one
glass of wine per day (ideally red wine, which is higher in the
antioxidant called resveratrol), as well as treats like sweets in

Are eggs allowed on the MIND diet? What about the
MIND diet and dairy? Eggs are not specifically mentioned in the book
“The MIND Diet,” however many experts believe that eggs can be included
in a healthy, balanced eating plan that supports brain health. That’s
because eggs are capable of supporting cognition, according to certain
studies. They are nutrient-dense and a great source of B vitamins,
choline, carotenoids like lutein and more. Eggs are also versatile,
inexpensive, and a good source of healthy fats and protein.

is another food group that is not discussed in great length in the MIND
diet book. It’s recommended that full-fat dairy products be limited to
small quantities, such as one ounce of cheese one to two times per week.
Many health authorities recommend consuming fermented dairy products,
such as unsweetened yogurt or kefir, due to their beneficial supply of
probiotics, minerals like calcium and many other nutrients. Dairy foods
are also included in the Mediterranean diet, and low-fat dairy products
are encouraged on the DASH diet.

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