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Improve Your Brain and Body Health: The MIND Diet

Have you heard of The MIND diet? This eating pattern is designed to prevent dementia and loss of brain function as you age. "MIND" stands for "Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay." This diet contains foods rich in certain vitamins, carotenoids, and flavonoids that are believed to protect the brain by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Food groups recommended in the MIND diet are a rich source of fiber and packed with several dietary nutrients that have been found to boost brain health. They include Vitamin E, Folate, Omega-3 fatty acids, Carotenoids, and Flavonoids. Research shows that the MIND diet can improve brain health and lower your risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and other forms of age-related cognitive decline. In fact, studies show that eating certain foods and avoiding unhealthy ones can slow brain aging by 7.5 years.

Here are the 10 foods the MIND diet encourages:

  1. Green, leafy vegetables: 6 or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens, and salads.
  2. All other vegetables: Try to eat another vegetable in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once per day. It's best to choose non-starchy vegetables.
  3. Berries: Eat at least twice per week. Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries all have antioxidant benefits.
  4. Nuts: Try to get 5 or more servings of nuts each week.
  5. Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
  6. Whole grains: at least 3 servings daily. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and 100% whole wheat bread.
  7. Fish: Eat at least once per week. It is best to choose fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
  8. Beans: Include in at least 4 meals per week.
  9. Poultry: Try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice per week.
  10. Wine: Aim for no more than 1 glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit your brain. If you're unable to consume the target number of servings, don't quit the MIND diet altogether. Research has shown that following the MIND diet even to a moderate degree is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and cognitive impairment.

When you're following the diet, you can eat more than just these 10 foods. However, the more you stick to the diet, the better your results may be. According to research, eating more of the 10 recommended foods and less of the foods that the diet recommends avoiding has been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and better brain function over time.

The unhealthy items, which are higher in saturated and trans-fat, include:

  • Less than 5 servings a week of pastries and sweets
  • Less than 4 servings a week of red meat (including beef, pork, lamb)
  • Less than 1 serving a week of cheese and fried foods
  • Less than 1 tablespoon a day of butter/stick margarine

Take small steps to include healthy foods, especially vegetables as you plan your daily meals and snacks. Your overall health is dependent on your mindful daily food choices. The MIND, Mediterranean and DASH diets are all healthful for families and individuals to follow.

Source: Karen Ensle, Rutgers Cooperative Extension

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