Feed your brain: the MIND diet

Healthy foods and ingredients laid out on a table

An ever-growing body of research shows that what we eat helps support brain health and prevent cognitive decline.

The good news is that the same type of diet that boosts your brain also benefits your heart, blood sugar and gastrointestinal system, and can help prevent some types of cancer. But it’s not as simple as eating an apple day or making sure you have a few bites of broccoli with dinner.

That’s where the MIND diet comes in.  Short for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” the MIND diet combines two diets: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet to give specific guidelines for 10 healthy brain foods and place limits on five unhealthy brain foods.

The MIND diet’s recommendations for 10 healthy brain foods: 

  • Green leafy vegetables (six or more servings per week)
  • Other vegetables (at least one serving per day) 
  • Nuts (five or more servings per week)
  • Berries (two or more servings per week)
  • Beans and lentils (in at least three meals each week)
  • Whole grains (three or more servings per day)
  • Seafood (in one or more meals per week)
  • Poultry, unfried (in two or more meals per week)
  • Olive oil (as primary oil used)
  • Wine (one glass per day)

The MIND diet’s recommendations for five unhealthy brain foods: 

  • Red meat (limit to four meals per week)
  • Butter and stick margarine (limit to 1 tablespoon per day)
  • Cheese (limit to one serving per week)
  • Pastries and sweets (limit to five servings per week)
  • Fried or fast food (limit to once per week)

How to use herbs and spices to pump up flavor and nutritional value of food

The key to the MIND diet is high amounts of anti-inflammatory whole plant foods, like vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and foods high in omega-3 fats. Limits are placed on foods that cause inflammation, including excessive sugar, damaged oils, too much omega-6 fats, char-grilled meats and highly processed foods.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugar to 10% or fewer of daily calories. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, 10% would amount to 50 grams, or 12.5 teaspoons, of sugar. The World Health Organization recommends a 5% limit for optimal health.

Damaged fats include those used at high temperatures, such as those in deep fryers. Oils high in omega-6 include soybean, cottonseed and corn oils. These are the primary oils used in snack foods and convenience foods. Instead, look for expeller-pressed and cold-pressed oils, such as extra virgin olive oil.  Eating foods that naturally contain omega-3 fats is a good practice, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, sea bass and halibut. Vegan sources include flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts.

Following the MIND diet helps ensure you’re getting the nutrition your brain craves while avoiding the pitfalls.

Healthy eating is within your reach!

Make an appointment with our dietitians or nutritionists.

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