According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5 million Americans ages 65 and older have dementia, an umbrella term for impairments in memory, thinking, or decision-making that interfere with everyday life. But what if there was a way to delay or prevent dementia and life-altering disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease?
Growing research supports the Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet as a powerful tool in reducing the risk of developing these types of age-related disorders.
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All About the MIND Diet
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet — both linked to improving heart health and lowering the risk of high blood pressure, depression, stroke, and diabetes. According to early research, the MIND diet has been shown to reduce dementia and slow the decline of brain health. While more research needs to be done, the existing data is promising.
One study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia showed that following the diet may lower a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent. Some participants who closely followed the diet’s recommendations showed improved cognitive function. Even those study participants who didn’t follow the diet perfectly saw positive effects on brain health.
The Best Foods for Brain Health
Like the two diets it combines, the MIND diet calls for eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. However, it emphasizes foods that promote cognitive health, specifically:
- Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
- All vegetables, but especially green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and chard
- Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts
- Olive oil
- Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, and whole-wheat pasta and bread
- Beans, including pinto, black, and kidney
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, and trout
- Poultry, including chicken, turkey, and duck (baked, grilled, or stir-fried — not deep-fried)
Following the diet also means limiting your intake of certain foods. With the exception of butter, try sticking to one serving or less per week of the following:
- Red meat
- Butter and margarine (one tablespoon or less per day is allowed)
- Sweets, including candy, pastries, and sugary baked goods
- Fried or fast food
To learn more about the best foods for brain health, visit Nutrition Services at UPMC or call 412-692-4497 to make an appointment. If you have a nutrition-related question, email AskADietitian@upmc.edu to connect with a UPMC dietitian.
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