Bulk up with a brain-healthy diet that includes fruit, berries and nuts for snacks while limiting fried and processed snack foods, advise the authors of “The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Preventing Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”
Although the Fountain of Youth may just be a myth, the MIND Diet is showing real promise at slowing cognitive decline in older people.
This brain-healthy diet is based on science that shows that foods and nutrients have both positive and negative effects on how the brain functions.
The MIND Diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, combines principles of the well-known Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Both of these diets have proven to be effective at reducing the risk of cardiac problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Research has shown that those who closely adhere to the MIND Diet function cognitively as if they were 7.5 years younger than those who adhered the least to this eating pattern.
In addition, rigorous followers of the MIND Diet lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53 percent. Even those who moderately followed the diet reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by about 35 percent. Overall, this way of eating appears to sharpen the mind and protect mental health as we age.
The MIND Diet emphasizes consuming vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, fish, and olive oil while minimizing red meat, butter, fried foods, fast food and pastries. This overall dietary pattern that focuses on beneficial foods while minimizing unfavorable foods is key to achieving positive brain health effects.
Researchers have recently found that stroke survivors who adhere to the MIND Diet experience a slower rate of cognitive decline. These are important findings because, in general, those who have had a stroke are twice as likely to develop dementia.
The book “The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Preventing Alzheimer’s and Dementia” provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the MIND Diet and recipes to help put the diet into practice.
Of course, other factors besides diet play a role in aging and cognitive decline such as genetics, exercise, education and smoking. However, the role of nutrition in how the brain ages cannot be underestimated. Here are some ways you can incorporate the MIND Diet into your daily eating plan:
Eat a salad every day and include vegetables at least one additional time daily.
• Swap out refined white flour foods for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole oats, whole wheat pasta, and 100 percent buckwheat soba noodles, for example.
• Choose fruit, berries and nuts for snacks while limiting fried and processed snack foods.
• Limit or avoid red meat and opt for beans, fish or poultry instead.
• Choose extra virgin olive oil more often in place of butter and cheese.
• Cut back on fried foods and fast food by preparing more meals at home.
• If you drink alcohol, consume moderate amounts of wine. Moderate intake is about one serving per day and excess amounts of alcoholic beverages can have detrimental health effects.