Delay Brain Aging With The New M.I.N.D. Diet
While cognitive decline is an inevitable aspect of aging, there are ways of delaying it and keeping our brains sharp even as we get older. The secret? It’s all in our diet.
Does anyone fancy some fish, nuts, and wine?
This is what’s commonly referred to as the MIND Diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”. A name that suits it well, given the fact that it is modeled after the popular DASH and Mediterranean diets—both well known for being heart health— with the added benefit of boosting essential nutrients that our brain requires to stay sharp and healthy.
The New MIND Diet Lowers Alzheimer's Risk By Half
Considering your age, there might already be certain things you’ve begun noticing when it comes to your ability to remember things. Perhaps you tend to forget where you’ve put down things or the funny anecdotes you were told not too long ago. What about appointments? People’s birthdays—if you’ve noticed these things, don’t worry. Aside from it being a normal part of aging, there are ways to delay the process or even prevent it entirely.
In a study involving over 960 adults who were followed for 9 whole years, it was shown that those who followed the MIND diet had brains that were about 7.5 younger when compared to the ones who didn’t follow the diet. What about the other factors such as physical activity and level of education? Well, you’d be surprised to know that the results held up even after those were taken into account. By following a simple diet, these people were able to shave off 7.5 years when it comes to brain age.
But the benefits don’t end there.
The MIND diet can help cut down Alzheimer’s risk by half—a disease that is feared by many older people. Those who followed the MIND diet also scored better in comparison to those who didn’t when it came to tests of perceptual speed, memory tests, and other facets of cognition that often declines along with aging.
We’ve tackled the benefits, but what exactly goes into the MIND diet?
We’ve already touched on the fact that the MIND diet is basically a combination of heart-healthy diets, DASH and Mediterranean whilst boosting all the nutrients required by our brains to function well.
The Mediterranean Diet
Based on the cuisine unique to that particular region, this diet places emphasis on consuming vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and whole grains. There is a degree of limitation when it comes to foods high in saturated fat, sweets, dairy, and meat. Fish should be eaten 2 to 3 times per week, whilst consuming nuts, seeds, poultry, and wine in moderation.
Another important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet is the use of olive oil. This has a high monounsaturated fat content which has plenty of benefits to offer when it comes to heart health.
The DASH Diet
This is a plant-based diet that also discourages the consumption of sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. It does encourage eating more food that’s rich in fiber, unsaturated fat, and protein. Much like the Mediterranean diet, it is proven to help with reducing heart-related diseases—including LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attacks.
The researchers at Rush University Medical Center went through different studies discussing how one’s diet can directly affect cognition and delay the onset of dementia. Once they have figured out the essential dietary components needed for this, they combined it with the elements of both DASH and Mediterranean diets— effectively boosting its brain-health nutrients and creating what is now known as the MIND diet. At the same time, they were also able to determine 5 different food groups that are unhealthy for the brain and must be consumed moderately or if possible, eliminated from one’s diet entirely.
With these three different components combined, even a little bit of the DASH diet will do the brain plenty of good. If followed closely, however, it can significantly reduce risks of Alzheimer’s disease—much more than the 35% reduction that following the Mediterranean diet can provide. You’d be glad to know that, unlike other diets, following the MIND diet is actually easy to do—easier, in fact, when compared to both DADH and Mediterranean. We begin by adding more fish to our daily diets. The benefits of doing so include:
- Fish contains essential omega-3 fatty acids that can effectively lower potential oxidative damage in our brains.
- It helps with preventing the formation of beta-amyloid plaque, which is the early foundation of Alzheimer’s disease.
The best bit is that you only need one fish meal per week in order to get these benefits—a significant discovery given the fact that most people are regular meat eaters and do not include fish in their regular diet. The DASH diet is easier because, for the Mediterranean diet, you’ll have to consume 2 to 3 fish meals a week which isn’t easy for many people to accomplish.
As for veggies, you’ll need two servings per day and an additional two servings of berries per week according to the MIND diet. Compare that to the 4 servings required for both DASH and Mediterranean diets and you can easily see which one is simpler (and more affordable!) to follow. Note that for the MIND diet, there’s an emphasis on consuming green leafy vegetables more than the other varieties.
What You Need To Avoid
You would want to avoid dairy products such as butter and cheese—this is because these have a high saturated fat content. It might be difficult for some people to give this up, but don’t forget that there are alternatives that are equally delicious and also more nutritious. Does this mean that you must remove ALL dairy products if you switch to the MIND diet? Not quite. There are certain food items that do have their place in this diet, but not enough information exists about what their effects on the brain are to be fully recommended or removed from the diet.
As for fat? You’d be glad to know that the DASH diet only recommends limiting your intake of it and actually lets you eat certain types of it. What’s the science behind this? During a PREDIMED test which was referenced by the people behind the MIND diet, participants who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease were switched to a Mediterranean diet that was supplemented by either mixed nuts or extra-virgin olive oil. The results? These people did better than the ones who were given a low-fat Mediterranean diet, pointing to some value in including select types of fat in one’s everyday food.
FACT: Mixed nuts and extra-virgin olive oil are essential given their high unsaturated fat content and the fact that they can effectively lower inflammation in the body. The same goes for inflammation in our brains, which is known to actually contribute to dementia. So, don’t forget to include these in your everyday diet.
A HEALTHY DIET IS NOT ALWAYS ENOUGH
We all know that maintaining a healthy diet is needed for our bodies to function properly and optimally, but it isn’t always enough or geared towards keeping our brains healthy as well. This is why many people who live healthy lives and follow healthy diets can still sometimes experience cognitive decline later in life. It is for this reason that the MIND diet was developed—not only to demonstrate the connection between our diet and cognitive health but also to make sure that we’re giving our body and brain the best nutrition possible.
If you’re already leading a healthy lifestyle and eating properly, then you’re already a good step ahead. In fact, switching to the MIND diet won’t require you to change much—only that you’ll need to add more of the essentials to boost brain-healthy nutrients in your everyday meals. This includes carotenoids, vitamin E, folate, antioxidants, and omega-3s. All of these can be found in the MIND diet through the 10 key food groups it requires:
- Green leafy vegetables – you need 6 or more servings of this every week.
- Other types of vegetables – 1 or more servings a day should be enough.
- Berries – 2 or more servings every week. You can also switch up the type of berries that you eat to make sure you get a variety of nutrients.
- Beans – eat 3 or more servings of this per week. Switch up the type you eat to avoid getting bored of the same thing.
- Nuts – 5 or more servings every week. Mixed nuts are highly recommended!
- Fish – Include this in your meals 1 or more times per week. Deep sea fish is the best.
- Whole grains – 3 or more servings per day is recommended.
- Poultry – 2 or more meals every week.
- Olive oil – should be used every day for meal preparation.
- Wine – 1 glass a day is enough to get all of the benefits.
WHAT TO LIMIT:
- Red meat – limit this to less than 4 meals every week.
- Stick margarine and butter – less than a teaspoon per day.
- Sweets and pastries – limit your consumption of these to less than 5 per week.
- Fast food – less than one serving for every week (if you can afford to eliminate it from your diet, that would be even better).
- Cheese – less than a serving per week.
For such minor changes to your diet, you could be reaping the benefits of delaying cognitive decline. Besides, we live in a world where more and more people are becoming conscious of their health and how their lifestyles affect it. What better time to make the change than now? Start small then slowly work your way to transitioning to the MIND diet completely. All it takes is one step forward—the rest will follow.