If you’re interested in the best diet for brain health, chances are that you’ve stumbled across the MIND diet. But what is it actually?
When it comes to the best diet for brain health, it’s hard to beat the MIND Diet. After all, it was specifically designed by researchers examining the best foods for your brain.
I like to explain the diet as a more specific version of the Mediterranean Diet. Both eating patterns focus on eating mostly whole, minimally processed foods with an emphasis on plant-based ingredients.
However, while the Mediterranean diet recommends simply eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, the MIND diet emphasizes specific fruits and vegetables that have been scientifically linked to benefits for brain health.
Below is an excerpt from my book MIND Diet for Beginners explaining the background and research behind this brain-healthy eating pattern.
Martha Clare Morris, ScD, and her team from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago developed a diet pattern based on previous research on the role diet plays in brain health, which was ﬁrst published in September 2015 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Now known as the MIND diet, this landmark study found that individuals with the highest MIND diet scores experienced a signiﬁcantly slower decline in brain function over 4.7 years compared to those with the lowest MIND diet scores.
In that same year, Morris and her team published a second study that found close adherence to the MIND diet was associated with a 52 percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over 4.5 years.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As you might be able to tell by the name, the diet is a combination of two well-known eating patterns: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional eating habits of people in Mediterranean
countries. It emphasizes eating healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and legumes while limiting consumption of red meat and added sugars.
Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet centers around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Because it was developed to treat hypertension, it also limits daily sodium intake.
Both the Mediterranean and DASH diets have been linked to better brain health, so it’s not surprising that the MIND diet borrows many of its guidelines from them.
What makes the MIND diet unique is that it focuses on the speciﬁc foods and nutrients that have been shown to boost and protect brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
For example, while the Mediterranean diet includes a general recommendation to eat more fruit, the MIND diet speciﬁcally recommends eating berries several times per week because research has shown a link between eating berries and having better cognitive function.
Although research on the MIND diet is ongoing, additional studies have already shown promising results.
For example, a 2019 study of 1,220 adults found that higher compliance with the MIND diet was signiﬁcantly associated with reduced odds of developing cognitive impairment over 12 years.
Another study found a significantly reduced risk of developing, or a slower progression of, Parkinson’s disease over 4.6 years.
As a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a passion for food and a background in research, I believe not only that the MIND diet is beneficial for brain health, but also that it can be a satisfyingly nutritious way to eat.
My goal is to provide you with the information and recipes you need to follow the MIND diet.
Want to learn more? Pre-order the MIND Diet for Beginners cookbook now on Amazon!
You can also find out more about the book itself, including the types of recipes you’ll find and tools I included in my previous post here.
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