How to eat with your brain in MIND

Research shows that following the MIND diet could slow brain aging more than seven years and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Bowls of vegetables and seeds.
Photo: Unsplash/Elsa Olsson.

The MIND diet study was originally published in 2015 in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The study followed 923 participants who kept food diaries and assigned MIND diet scores based on how many brain healthy foods and brain unhealthy foods they consumed. The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet, both of which have been proven to benefit overall health and reduce risk of disease.

Ten things people who had the highest MIND diet scores did each week:

  • One cup of leafy green vegetables each day. Leafy greens are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, but also a very good source of folic acid, which is needed for good brain health.
  • One serving of any other vegetable each day. This makes a total of at least two servings of vegetables a day. And if you manage to eat more than this, it’s a bonus. Just make sure to get the minimum of one leafy and one other vegetable.
  • Three servings of whole grains each day. Whole grains are foods like brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a serving of whole grains is equivalent to one slice of bread; a half cup of cooked oatmeal, pasta, or rice; an ounce of crackers; or one cup of ready-to-eat cereal.
  • One glass of red wine each day. Wine contains antioxidants that help prevent plaques from forming in your brain leading to dementia. However, this is one diet change you’ll need to check with your health care provider before making, as there might be health or medication issues that would prohibit the drinking of wine or any alcoholic drink.
  • One serving of dried beans about every other day. Dried beans, such as lentils, pinto, navy and kidney, are packed with protein and fiber and make a great substitute for meat in a meal.
  • Two servings of berries each week. Berries are full of phytochemicals and flavonoids, which are great for your brain health, and the seeds in berries also help your digestive system stay regular. However, people with certain diseases, like diverticulosis, should follow their health care provider’s recommendations when eating berries.
  • Two servings of poultry a week. Swap out red meat for poultry a couple times a week. A serving is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
  • One serving of fish each week. Fatty fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain development and brain health. Recommended fish include salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines.
  • Five servings of nuts each week. Nuts are packed with fat-soluble vitamin E, known for its brain-protective qualities. Grab a handful of unsalted, dry-roasted or raw nuts instead of processed snacks like chips or cookies.
  • Cook with mostly olive oil. Use extra virgin olive oil in place of butter or margarine.

Four things people with the highest MIND diet scores did less of each week:

  • Less than five servings of red meat each week.
  • Less than 1/3 cup of cheese a week.
  • Less than one tablespoon of butter a day.
  • Less than five servings of sweets each week.

Following a MIND diet doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite foods; instead, it encourages a focus on adding more healthful foods to your diet, and eating fewer less-healthy foods. Try these recommendations and see how easy it is to help your brain stay healthy! For more information on developing a healthy lifestyle, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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