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What is the MIND Diet?


Q: I’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet and Weight Watchers and other popular diets, but now I’m hearing more about one called the MIND Diet.  What is the MIND Diet?
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The MIND Diet is one of the newer diets in the news, and it is receiving favorable reviews across the board.  The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet is a hybrid of two highly respected and recommended diets with which you may already be familiar, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet and the Mediterranean Diet.  What is different about the MIND Diet is its aim to lower your risk of mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease, estimated to affect as many as 5.1 million Americans.

MIND Diet Study
The MIND Diet is relatively new and the result of a study at Rush University Medical Center.  Created by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush, the results were first published online in February 2015 and underscored the importance of certain foods on brain health.  The study found that for those who followed the MIND diet moderately well, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease was reduced by about 35 percent.  The results were even more positive for those following it to the letter, with risk lowered by up to 53 percent.  It isn’t surprising that this diet, which takes the best brain-boosting foods and eating patterns from both the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet, is rapidly growing in popularity.

Foods in the MIND Diet
This diet is all about adding good-for-you foods to your diet while reducing not-so-good-for-you foods (not eliminating, just reducing).  A less strict, more sensible and total diet approach to eating has helped to earn the MIND diet the #3 spot for Best Overall Diet on U.S. News & World Report’s annual list.

The plan calls for eating foods primarily from 10 brain-boosting groups:
  1. Green leafy vegetables in particular
  2. All other vegetables
  3. Nuts
  4. Berries (these are a favorite of the diet’s creators!)
  5. Beans
  6. Whole grains
  7. Fish
  8. Poultry
  9. Olive oil
  10. Wine

The MIND diet recommends avoiding foods from these five groups:
  1. Red meats
  2. Butter and stick margarine
  3. Cheeses
  4. Pastries and sweets
  5. Fried/fast food
The MIND Diet Rules
Unlike many other diets out there, the rules of the MIND diet are relatively simple and make maintaining the eating plan as part of a healthy lifestyle easier. Also, while the diet was designed strictly with brain health in mind, the recommended foods and servings have been linked to a variety of other health benefits from lowered cholesterol to reduced stress to weight loss.
The rules of the diet are:
  • Get at least three servings of whole grains per day. 
  • Eat a salad each day.
  • Eat one other vegetable every day. 
  • Drink a glass of wine each day. 
  • Snack almost every day on nuts. 
  • Eat beans every other day. 
  • Consume poultry and berries at least twice a week. 
  • Consume fish at least once a week.
  • Unhealthy foods are allowed, but consume less than one serving per week, with the exception of butter (less than 1 tablespoon a day of butter is allowed per day). 
 
Eating Out on the MIND Diet
This healthy approach to eating incorporates a wealth of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, leaving room for other favorite foods on occasion, making it a smart approach to eating.  The MIND diet, unlike some other more restrictive diets, is also easy to follow away from home.  These recommended foods are becoming more and more common on restaurant menus and restaurants are usually happy to accommodate special requests to make dishes suited to your needs.

If you’d like to give the MIND diet a try for better brain health and a variety of other health benefits, get started with MIND diet recipes like these and dietitian-recommended Healthy Dining menu choices like these:
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