The Complete Guide for the MIND Diet

Updated on August 3rd, 2020
mind diet

Though some memory issues are typical as we age (a word at the tip of your tongue that you can’t retrieve, forgetting where you put the keys), serious memory lapses are not a given. You can reduce the risk of severe memory impairments and keep your mind sharp by concentrating on what you consume.

Our diet and a few other lifestyle changes can shape the way our brain functions and improve cognitive thinking skills, like your ability to learn something new, absorb important details, solve problems, complete complex tasks, and think critically.

What is Mind Diet?

Research suggests that older adults who adhere to a Mediterranean diet or a similar eating pattern known as the MIND diet(1) plan do much better on cognitive tests than those who follow less healthful dietary guidelines.

The MIND diet is a blend between the Mediterranean Diet and another healthy eating regimen known as the DASH Diet, which was initially intended to help lower high blood pressure.

Looking after your vascular and heart health is also good for your brain health, so the brain-boosting MIND diet combines principles from these two plans along with some specific advice to keep your brain sharp.

What to eat for better brain health

To help you keep your brain healthy, rely on this mind diet foods list, which is the MIND diet pillar.

1. Dark leafy greens

Six servings/week

These wholesome greens provide crucial brain-protecting compounds, such as phylloquinone, folate, and lutein. In one study that measured leafy green consumption over an average of more than four and half years among adults up to ninety-nine years old, scientists found that just a bit over one serving of leafy green veggies per day helped improve brainpower.

The group that achieved this target had the thinking skills and memory of people eleven years younger! There are so many simple ways to fold these foods into a diet. You can toss some kale into a protein-packed smoothie, have a small side salad at dinner, serve sautéed greens along with an egg scramble, and stir into soups, pasta, and stews.

[Also Read: Benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables]

2. Other Veggies

One serving/day

Besides leafy greens, the MIND diet (along with every healthful eating plan) emphasizes vegetables, so try to have another type of vegetable every single day. This doesn’t need to be complicated.

Stack red pepper strips and tomatoes into sandwiches, have a stir fry with cauliflower and broccoli, incorporate fun veggie noodles (like carrot noodles or zucchini) into pasta dinners, or serve up a snack with hummus and cherry tomatoes.

3. Nuts

5 servings/week

Nuts are packed with nutrients and anti-inflammatory fats that help keep your brain healthy as you grow.

One research looked at the eating habits of a large population of women for more than 10 years and found that compared to those who were eating the fewest nuts, those who ate about 5 servings per week had the brain’s brain functioning 2 years younger.

Spread nuts over salads, use them to garnish yogurt parfaits, wintery soups, and oatmeal, use them to prepare snacks, like energy bars and bites, or just snack on an ounce straight up.

4. Pulses (legumes and beans)

3 or more servings per week

These plant protein powerhouses have also been associated with better thinking skills and preservation of memory. Another research showed the reverse was right, too — that lower intakes were associated with an increase in cognitive lapses. The MIND diet necessitates at least 3 servings per week.

Though you can boost your consumption by having a few meatless meals every week, you could also include these plant-based proteins alongside a smaller portion of animal-based proteins.

For example, serve your turkey taco salad with some pinto beans or black beans, use hummus (a dip prepared from chickpeas) as a turkey sandwich spread, or serve a garlicky white bean mash as a side to roasted turkey or chicken.

5. Berries

Two or more servings per week

It’s believed that the antioxidants known as flavonoids in berries help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and protect the brain function. Hitting the 2-serving mark is simple! Add unsweetened or fresh frozen berries to yogurt, smoothies, cold cereal, and chia puddings.

Or serve some warmed berries with a sprinkling of nuts and a dollop of Greek yogurt for dessert. When in season, berries are also a great way to perk up a salad.

[Also Read: Health Benefits of Berries]

6. Seafood

One or more serving per week

Though our Dietary Guidelines and the Mediterranean diet call for eating more seafood (about 2 times a week), the MIND diet’s target may be easier to achieve.

Oily fish, like sardines and salmon, provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats that may be particularly helpful. Canned salmon and wild tuna are convenient everyday options that will help you meet your seafood requirements.

7. Poultry

Two or more servings per week

This is another excellent option that makes the MIND diet superbly flexible. Chances are unless you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re most likely already eating turkey and chicken. These protein choices are safer for your brain than red meat, like pork, beef, and lamb.

8. Whole grains

Three or more servings each day

Your brain requires abundant energy — about twenty percent of the calories you consume go to strengthen your brain. And its preferred source of energy is glucose, which comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates. The DASH, MIND and Mediterranean diets emphasize whole grains, and research backs up their brain-boosting abilities.

In one study among more than 5,000 people, low whole-grain intake (and a higher intake of less healthy foods, like red meat) was associated with more advanced cognitive decline.

In another study, people who followed the Mediterranean or DASH diets’ advice consistently showed higher levels of cognitive functioning over three years. Specifically, nuts, whole grains,  and legumes were associated with better brain functioning.

Opt for brown rice over white rice, white bread sandwich for a whole grain version, and choose whole-grain cereals (including oatmeal) and sides (such as quinoa).

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