What is the MIND Diet

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Following the MIND diet is important for people who want to protect their cognitive health as they age.

What is the MIND Diet?

The MIND diet is a combination of two popular diets, the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet, and is designed to improve cognitive health and prevent neurodegenerative disease as you age. The two diets that contribute to the MIND diet are both known to improve heart health, diabetic risk, and chronic disease vulnerability, but the combination diet is specifically geared towards antioxidants that can protect neural pathways and prevent plaque deposition.

This diet is known to treat Alzheimer’s and also reduce the risk of developing this condition, but it can also help you lose weight and eliminate some risk factors that can contribute to cognitive disease. This diet pulls many of the best brain-boosting foods from the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet but has few other strict guidelines. Basically, the diet requires that you increase your intake of 10 key food groups. Foods that are rich in healthy fats and antioxidants make up most of this diet, as these foods can lower inflammation and neutralize the activity of free radicals, which can cause neurodegenerative and chronic disease.

A plate resembling a head filled with food and a fork and spoon on either side of it

The MIND diet is a mix of Mediterranean and DASH diets. Its main goal is to reduce dementia. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

MIND Diet Meal Plan

If you are going to follow the MIND diet, a one-day meal plan may look something like the following:

MIND Diet Foods

The key to following this diet is to increase your intake of 10 key food groups, including leafy green vegetables, berries, whole grains, wine, and beans, among others.

Foods to Eat

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Olive oil
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Poultry
  • Wine

Foods to Avoid

  • Cheese
  • Red meat
  • Fried foods
  • Butter
  • Stick margarine
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Junk food

Health Benefits

The many impressive benefits of a MIND diet include:

  • Preventing cognitive decline
  • Reducing your risk of neurodegenerative disease
  • Weight loss
  • Lowering inflammation throughout the body
  • Preventing oxidative stress
  • Reducing risk of neurodegenerative disease
  • Preventing diabetes
  • Reducing symptoms of arthritis and gout
  • Treating headaches

Most of the foods that are included in this diet are rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols, anthocyanins, phytonutrients, flavonoids, and catechins. However, these foods are also notably low in calories and are composed of complex carbohydrates, which can help with weight loss and the risk of diabetes.

This diet is also known to be anti-inflammatory, which can help to reduce symptoms of arthritis, gout, headaches and other common conditions. Inflammation can also decrease your activity levels, which is known to speed up cognitive decline. The point of this diet is to reduce the risk factors that can lead to cognitive decline, including a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy accumulation of toxins in the body.

MIND Diet Guidelines

When following this diet, there are a few do’s and don’ts to make the experience as effective as possible.

Do’s

  • Eat at least one salad per day
  • Have one glass of wine per day
  • Snack every day on nuts
  • Eat fish once a week
  • Eat chicken and berries at least once per week

Don’ts

  • Avoid using butter as a cooking tool, except for one meal per week
  • Limit fish intake, as there is a higher risk of mercury consumption
  • Don’t cut your calories, simply change your dietary structure
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol, even wine, as this can be counterproductive to the diet’s goals
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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