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What to Know About the MIND Diet

MIND-diet-meal-list
Last Updated on July 2, 2022

Author and registered dietitian Maggie Moon is the founder of the MIND diet and wrote a book on following it called The MIND Diet. The MIND diet aims at cognitive fitness, helping you eat foods that the diet says are good for strengthening the mind to prevent Alzheimer's and dementia. 

Unlike fad diets that often grasp celebrity attention, the MIND diet takes a more holistic and scientific approach. Nevertheless, no diet is perfect, so we’ll explore its pros and cons here.

An Overview of the MIND Diet

fruits greens and grains on plate

The MIND Diet is short for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” Yes, it’s a mouthful. And if you’ve been researching other diets, you might recognize the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which the MIND diet combines.

The MIND diet encourages people to consume plant-based foods and reduce their intake of dairy, processed food, and animal products with high concentrations of saturated fat. 

Portion control is a crucial element of the MIND diet. When following this program, people will consume food from fifteen primary groups while limiting—but not eliminating—the other five.

You won’t find any fast weight loss solutions with the MIND diet. Since its focus is on reducing the chances of Alzheimer's and dementia, it doesn’t have any emphasis on weight loss.

Food You Can Eat on the MIND Diet

cooked food fish grains and vegetables

The food permitted on the MIND diet feels relatively intuitive, given that it emphasizes eating whole, unprocessed meals. Therefore, the ten food groups you can eat from on the MIND diet include:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • All other vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Wine

The MIND diet separates vegetables into two categories because they want to ensure that at least one of your vegetable portions comes from leafy greens. 

Berries aren’t the only fruit you can eat on the MIND diet, but their policy on fruit is a bit lacking. However, it is clear that they also encourage eating blueberries, raspberries, and pomegranates.

The MIND diet doesn’t encourage eating from all of these food groups every day, but you should make sure to do that with leafy greens, berries, and whole grains. Items they recommend eating at least twice per week are poultry and berries, and they say you should consume fish a minimum of once per week.

Foods to Eat in Moderation

If you’re a person who can’t stand to give up wine or your favorite chocolate, the good news is that the MIND diet uses a moderation approach to eating. So, below are foods that this diet says are bad for the brain and that you should only eat on occasion if you must:

  • Butter and margarine
  • Red meat
  • Cheese
  • Sweets
  • Fried food

Here’s the tricky part: The MIND diet doesn’t specifically say how much you should eat of these items. So, it’s primarily up to the dieter to determine what they believe is a reasonable amount.

MIND Diet Pros

If you’re considering the MIND diet, below are some of the pros you may experience.

Science-backed Data

The MIND diet is a well-researched plan, with a study showing that people following the MIND diet may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's and dementia by as much as 53%. It even revealed that people who followed the diet “moderately well” saw a 35% risk of these cognitive diseases.

Promotes Healthy Food

When following the MIND diet, dieters must stick with primarily plant-based and lean protein foods. These are known foods for good health, as processed and fast foods can cause a host of problems from heart disease to diabetes and obesity.

Relatively Easy to Stick With

The MIND diet isn’t as restrictive as many, as it even allows for the occasional sweet or fried food indulgence. For this reason, people following this diet may find it easier to stick with over the long term, which is a lifestyle change that the MIND diet encourages.

MIND Diet Cons

Below are some cons you may experience by following the MIND diet.

A Little Unclear

Whereas the MIND diet advises on how much vegetables, whole grains, and protein you should consume, it doesn’t offer guidelines on how much total fat to eat. Furthermore, their dairy and fruit consumption policy are too ambiguous for some. 

May Lack Nutrients

Although experts recommend limiting red meat consumption for improved health, the MIND diet may limit it too much, especially depending on a person’s interpretation of the “occasional” serving. Red meat is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and other nutrients that can be harder to obtain from plant-based sources. So, you may need to take a multivitamin supplement.

Benefits of the MIND Diet

The MIND diet encourages people to eat foods high in brain-healthy nutrients, including folate, carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids. Because of this, research supports that following the MIND diet can help people reduce cognitive decline by as much as 7.5 years as they age. 

Additionally, because the MIND diet is low in sodium and unhealthy fats, it may also help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Risks of the MIND Diet

Overall, the risks of following the MIND diet appear to be low for most adults. Nevertheless, some people might experience a lack of nutrients, particularly vitamin B12, if they’re used to getting this nutrient primarily from red meat.

The Bottom Line

The MIND diet has scientific data supporting its claims that it may help to reduce the chances of Alzheimer's and dementia. But of course, no single diet, pill, or activity can guarantee this. 

So, if you’re interested in strengthening your brain health, consider other techniques, such as playing memory games, using mnemonics, and reading.

Finally, we recommend speaking with your doctor before starting any new diet, especially if you notice signs of memory loss.

References

Shishira Sreenivas, What to Know About the MIND Diet, retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/what-to-know-about-mind-diet

MIND Diet Repeatedly Ranked Among Best, retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160105134102.htm

Carolyn Farnsworth, What to Know About the MIND Diet, retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mind-diet

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