Food for Thought

Is “food for thought” more than just a catchy phrase? It turns out that nutrition may be an important modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline. In the past, there was a focus on individual nutrients and their effects on dementia. Now, the focus has switched to dietary patterns as a whole. One diet in particular has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Let’s learn more about it!

What Is the MIND Diet?
The Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or the MIND diet, is a dietary pattern that targets brain health. The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating patterns, which are two other healthy diets. Although both are similar in many aspects, they also have some differences.

  • The traditional Mediterranean eating pattern consists of primarily plant-based foods and healthy fats including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and olive oil with limited quantities of meat and dairy products and moderate wine drinking.
  • The DASH eating pattern emphasizes increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts while being low in red meat and added sugars. Unlike the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet does not promote alcohol intake.

Overall, the MIND diet encourages plant-based foods while promoting specific foods that may be beneficial for brain health such as berries, green leafy vegetables, and nuts and seeds. In addition, it discourages frequent consumption of animal-based foods and foods high in saturated fats such as red meat, cheese, sweets, butter, and fried or fast foods.

Components of the MIND Diet
In summary, there are ten “brain-healthy” components of the MIND diet:

  1. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and cabbage
  2. Other vegetables (non-leafy green vegetables) such as carrots, onions, and tomatoes
  3. Nuts
  4. Berries
  5. Beans
  6. Whole grains
  7. Fish
  8. Skinless white meat poultry
  9. Olive oil
  10. Wine

The Truth About Alcohol
Although the MIND diet guidelines include a glass of wine each day, drinking any amount of alcohol has been found to cause damage to the brain. Recent research suggests that there is no “safe” amount despite claims that moderate consumption may improve health outcomes.

Bottom Line
More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of the MIND diet. However, this dietary approach does appear to be a promising strategy to combat cognitive decline. It is important to recognize that there is no magic pill or single “brain food” that will guarantee a sharp brain as you grow older.

In other words, don’t get too distracted by specific diets or singular foods. The best thing you can do is to follow a healthy, balanced eating pattern that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Focus on getting most of your protein from plant sources, such as nuts/seeds,  legumes, and fish. Try to opt for healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados.

Remember, it isn’t only about diet! Managing stress, getting adequate sleep, spending time with loved ones, and partaking in regular exercise is just as important for brain health too.

Boosting Brain Health Bite by Bite
Here are some recipes you can find on Click ‘N Cook that can help to protect your overall health, including your brain:

Written by:
Isabel McDonnell
Dietetic Intern