Though it’s best known to affect the elderly, Alzheimer’s disease preys on the minds of thousands — not all of them of old age. An estimated 500,000 Americans younger than 65 have some form of dementia. Science is doing all it can to develop medical treatments and recommend preventative actions — but as far as we know, there is no cure. Prevention is much more promising than treatment, which is why many experts wonder how much diet and exercise could contribute to disease risk. Enter the MIND diet.
Rush University Medical Center’s Martha Clare Morris, nutritional epidemiologist, launched initial research into MIND. Her discoveries, no longer preliminary, may not only make you healthier, but can protect your mind from the most severe cognitive consequences of aging. Read on to find out how.
What is the MIND diet?
According to Live Science, the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, aims to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. MIND, as its name implies, is a cross between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Since research has proven both of these diets have significant health benefits, experts figured combining them may provide even more. They were right.
The Mediterranean diet encourages followers to eat as few processed foods as possible, limiting saturated fat and promoting fresh, whole foods. The DASH diet focuses primarily on encouraging dieters to eat foods low in sodium in an attempt to lower their blood pressure.
The diet involves eating foods said to benefit your brain. It also encourages you to avoid foods that aren’t good for your brain, such as those high in sugar and saturated fat. It’s simple: dieters are given a list of 10 kinds of foods they can eat (such as vegetables) and foods they cannot (such as fast food). There are rules, but they’re straightforward — and the potential results are worth changing your eating habits for.
Let’s first take a look at the benefits of MIND. We will then move on to discussing its guidelines, and will provide a sample menu and success tips for you to get the most out of the diet on your own.
The best diets out there are the ones that experts can back up with real science. This is one of the reasons the MIND diet proves so effective. It’s based on years and years of research on the diet itself, plus the two healthy diets it is based on. DASH and the Mediterranean diet are among the healthiest diets you can follow. What else would you expect from their simple hybrid?
It can protect against Alzheimer’s
MIND was created specifically to protect the mind, and there’s evidence it might work. Nearly a decade’s worth of studies on the MIND diet have shown it may reduce people’s risk of developing the disease. Researchers also discovered that Alzheimer’s risk continued to drop the longer a person followed MIND.
It’s good for your heart
Following the MIND diet, you are encouraged to eat nuts and fish, drink wine, and use olive oil. These foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health over time. Healthy fats, and the compounds within them, can improve your blood cholesterol, keep your arteries clear, and significantly reduce your risk of developing multiple types of heart disease and related issues.
It may reduce blood pressure
DASH aims to keep blood pressure under control, and many of the foods recommended for followers of DASH also appear in MIND. Fresh produce, fish, poultry, nuts and grains are all low-sodium foods. Too much sodium over time can damage your arteries and cause irreversible harm to your heart. One of the best and easiest ways to control your sodium intake is to follow diets like DASH and MIND, which recommend foods that make it easy to keep your blood pressure under control.
It’s easy to follow
The diet’s developers specifically designed MIND as an easy to follow plan. There are a few rules, but you may already follow some of them and you do not even know it. Most of the foods that are “allowed” on the diet are also foods you are likely already eating almost on a daily basis. Basically, you have enough freedom that you will likely not feel overwhelmed. Yet you have enough structure to actually reap the potential benefits of following such a healthy way of eating.
Now that you know what the MIND diet is, and how it can significantly improve your health over time, let’s learn the rules. Below is a list of encouraged and discouraged foods, a short collection of simple rules to follow, and how to make it work for you.
The creators of the MIND diet borrowed guidelines from both the DASH and Mediterranean diets to create a way of eating beneficial to the mind. Thankfully, the brain is not the only part of the body this diet can protect and maybe even enhance. In many cases, a healthy body encourages a healthy mind — and the other way around.
Take a look at MIND’s list of 10 types of food you should try to eat every single week, if not every single day. We have included additional benefits of each, just in case you need more than one reason to consider giving this diet a good try.
Many vegetables are high in fiber and protein and low in carbs and sodium. It’s easier to add vegetables to your meals and snacks throughout the day than you think. Steam, grill, or bake your vegetables to preserve their nutrients if you prefer to eat them cooked.
Green leafy vegetables
There are two types of vegetables: starchy, and non-starchy. Leafy veggies are non-starchy, making them perfect for salads. Especially make sure you include green leafy vegetables in your meals and snacks as often as you can. These include foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage.
Berries, especially blueberries
The reason blueberries often get so much attention has to do with antioxidants. Antioxidants work to combat the negative effects of aging on your body’s cells, which may contribute to a number of degenerative conditions. Fresh and frozen fruit is usually healthier than dried, dehydrated fruit.
Though they tend to be high in calories, nuts are worth the small sacrifice. They are loaded with protein and healthy fats. If you can get them unsalted, that’s even better. A small handful, about a fourth of a cup, is a perfect tasty and filling afternoon snack when you need a quick brain boost.
In every little bean, there’s more protein and fiber than you would expect from a small plant food. That’s why MIND recommends eating beans at least once every other day. You can add beans to a salad, mash them into your taco, or create a bean based stew or chili you will never forget.
Just because you are on a diet does not mean you cannot enjoy a delicious adult beverage with or soon following your evening meal. MIND experts recommend a glass of wine per day to reap its many suggested benefits.
Unlike refined grains, which have part of their seeds removed, whole grains provide plenty of nutritional benefits. They are good sources of fiber and B vitamins. Use whole grain bread when making sandwiches for lunch, or toast first thing in the morning for breakfast.
Fish and poultry
If you are a big red meat eater, it may be time to get used to different types of carb-free protein. Both chicken and fish are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fish also contains healthy fats, which are especially beneficial to heart health.
Olive oil, unlike vegetable oil, is made with unsaturated (healthy) fats. Used wisely, olive oil can act as a flavor enhancer to replace many fattening foods and condiments, like creamy salad dressings.
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