A wholefoods diet that supports a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Diets tend to focus on supporting physical wellbeing, increased energy levels and decreased bodyweight. However, what we eat greatly affects our mental and emotional health too.
What if there was a diet that could support healthy brain function, not just for a sharp brain today or tomorrow, but for a healthy brain later in life too? Let’s take a closer look into the MIND diet.
What is the MIND diet?
The MIND diet, (which is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is a diet that focuses on vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, beans, olive oil and fish. It specifically encourages eating food that can impact brain health. There is evidence that supports the connection between this eating plan and preventing forms of dementia and slowing the decline of brain health.
The MIND diet was developed by university researchers and combines aspects from two popular and well-researched eating styles: the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. While both diets offer health benefits, it’s the combination of the two that specifically helps to prevent loss of brain function that can occur as people age.
Brain Healthy Food Groups of the MIND Diet
Include these food groups in your diet to support a healthy brain.
- Green leafy vegetables like kale, silverbeet, spinach and lettuce. Greens are nutrient dense and contain nutrients like folate, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids which are linked to better brain health. Ideally, eat organic greens every day or at least 6 times a week.
2. All other vegetables. Eat another serving of any other vegetable at least once a day.
3. Eat more berries. Studies have shown that adults who eat blueberries and strawberries show the lowest rates of cognitive decline. It’s the high levels of the antioxidant, flavonoids that support cognitive health. Eat berries twice a week. Frozen berries count too! Be sure to choose organic berries to avoid nasty chemicals which are used in conventional farming.
4. Plant-based meals. Get in the habit of eating beans. Beans and lentils are packed with protein, fibre and B vitamins. Feature organic beans in your diet 4 times a week. don’t have to say goodbye to meat, just keep it to less than 4 servings a week.
5. Whole grains. Your brain uses a lot of energy, and a great source of fuel is glucose, which comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates. A smart choice of carbohydrates are whole grains such as whole oats, popcorn, quinoa or brown rice. Avoid processed grains such as white flour as well as sugary treats.
6. Snack on nuts. Nuts are packed with fat-soluble vitamin E, which is known to support brain function. For the perfect afternoon snack, all it takes is a handful of nuts.
7. Use Olive Oil, it’s considered a healthy fat. It contains monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. Always choose extra virgin olive oil, and organic if possible.
8. Eat oily fish to support cognitive brain function. If you’re worried about the sustainability of eating fish, keep it to just once a week for the health benefits and focus on smaller fish like sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring.
9. Poultry. Eating chicken or turkey is recommended at least twice a week. If your vegan or vegetarian, stick with beans as your protein source.
10. A glass of red wine. It’s ok to enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner but keep it to one glass a day.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Restricting foods that you enjoy eating, all at once, can be a real challenge. Looking for healthy alternatives is a great way to slowly change your food choices. To get the most benefits from the MIND diet, try the following:
- Limit red meat to 3x a week, with small servings of higher quality, organic meat
- Reduce butter or margarine use, it’s recommended to have less than 1 tablespoon a day. Coconut oil is a healthy alternative and can be used on toast, when cooking or in baking.
- Reduce cheese, with only 1 serving per week. This is a good opportunity to try a plant-based cheese alternative. You may be surprised how many options are available now-a-days!
- As no surprise, keep fried or fast food to a bare minimum with only one serving a week.
- We all enjoy a tasty, sweet treat or pastry, but keep these to only one a week. Try a healthy alternative to traditional sweets. We love these Chocolate Chickpea Brownies or Peanut Butter Coconut Cream Pie.
Tips and Tricks to Transition into the MIND diet
- Be realistic with your eating goals. Start with a flexible approach, by reducing one unhealthy food from the diet at a time.
- At the same time, focus on increasing one healthy food in your diet at a time. For example, start with adding beans to your diet. Once this becomes a habit, work on the next one.
- Vary your recipes. Try a variety of bean recipes or even add beans to your mince. Learn how to use beans and find bean recipes on our website.
- Fill your pantry with healthy food options and explore new ways of using healthy ingredients, browse our website for inspiration.
- Keep unsalted nuts in your desk drawer or handbag for when hunger strikes.
Making alterations to your diet can be challenging. Be kind to yourself and know that even small changes can make a difference. Research shows that following the MIND diet, even moderately can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.