How the MIND Diet Can Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
The hottest new healthy eating plan is designed to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease – and it works. Here’s how to follow the MIND Diet
What is the MIND Diet?
What if you could slow the cognitive decline of aging and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease - just by making a few changes to your breakfast, lunch and dinner? Well, the creators of the MIND diet (which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) say you can. In fact, according to research published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, the diet reduced Alzheimer's risk by 53 percent among those who followed the plan strictly and 35 percent for those who followed it moderately well.
The MIND diet has zeroed in on aspects of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and blood-pressure-slashing DASH (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for the biggest brain-boosting benefits. The plan lists 10 healthy food groups and five that you should avoid. It comes down to limiting foods that are high in saturated fats and calories but have low nutritional value, and including healthy foods that offer nutrients that help your brain, says Martha Clare Morris, director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who created the MIND diet. "The top nutrients are vitamin E, B vitamins, omega 3s, some of the carotenoids, lutein in particular, and flavonoids," she explains. That means lots of leafy greens, nuts and olive oil (and even wine!) but no butter, cheese or fried foods. Follow our seven-day plan for tips from the diet's creator.
Monday: Pulse it out
Pulses, which include dried legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas and split peas, are fabulous sources of protein. Since red meat is limited on this diet, swap beef or chicken for pulses, suggests Morris. "Instead of a taco with ground beef, have a taco with beans. Beans are an excellent source of B vitamins and a low-fat, high-protein alternative to red meat," she says. Try these roasted chickpea recipes to help kick your chip habit.
Tuesday: Spread the Love
Swap butter for other spreads to make your sandwiches (made with whole-grain bread) sing. Hummus or white bean dip are great options for added fibre, which, though not connected to brain health, is definitely something that most of us are lacking. A sandwich is also another way to get more vegetables in each day. Give roasted peppers or portobello mushrooms a go!
Wednesday: Eat Veggies for Brekkie
Vegetables are breakfast foods. "People don't think of eating vegetables for breakfast, but one of my favourites is sautéing fresh spinach in olive oil, putting it on top of my egg and squirting some lemon juice on it - it's really good and very fast," says Morris. Lightly cooking the green helps to make its nutrients easier for your body to absorb, she explains. Another option is savoury pancakes. Add some chopped, sautéed spinach and onion to a sugar-free batter and cook them as you normally would.
Thursday: Add More Salad Days
Up your salad game to help you get six servings of leafy greens each week. Spinach, kale, mustard greens, chard, collard greens and romaine lettuce are full of brain-friendly nutrients (iceberg lettuce is, too, though Morris says it's not as dense in lutein, vitamin K or folate). And don't forget the dressing! "Most of the nutrients found in leafy green vegetables are fat-soluble nutrients," says Morris, "so eating them with a healthy fat will help your body absorb them better." Opt for an extra-virgin olive oil dressing. A few slices of avocado will also do the trick.
Friday: Make it Berry Delicious
So you've topped your salad with berries, but now what? Morris suggests adding them to your cereal or oatmeal. They are also an obvious fit for smoothies. Or just eat them on their own, especially when they're in season. You can also blend fresh blueberries with omega 3-rich chia seeds and let the mixture sit for about an hour, or until it reaches your desired thickness, to make a MIND-diet-friendly jam.
Sunday: Here, fishy fishy
If your family isn't big on fish, pick a particular day to make a seafood-based meal each week. And if cooking fish is new to you, choose a day when you'll have more time to prepare and experiment with new recipes. Morris suggests choosing a cold-water fish, such as salmon or trout, which will contain more omega 3s, the polyunsaturated fatty acids that help support brain health. Check out our healthy fish and seafood recipes for inspiration.
Dos and Don'ts of the MIND Diet
Keep this list handy for reference as you navigate this brain-boosting meal plan.
• Six or more servings of leafy green vegetables each week
• At least one serving of another vegetable each day
• More than two servings of berries each week
• More than five servings of nuts each week.
• Extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter and as your primary cooking oil
• More than three servings of whole grains each day
• Fish that hasn't been fried for at least one meal each week
• Beans or other pulses for more than three meals each week
• Poultry for more than two meals each week
• A glass of wine each day (though Morris says there's no need to drink this if you're avoiding alcohol)
• Butter to one tablespoon each day
• Cheese to less than one serving each
• Red meat to less than four meals each week
• Fried foods to less than one meal each week
• Sweets and pastries to less than five servings each week