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Brain Foods: The MIND Diet Protects Against Alzheimer’s (Even For Those Who …

A new diet can help you avoid what for many people is the most dreaded diagnosis of all: Alzheimer’s. Called the MIND diet, it lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by more than half — 53 percent — among the study participants who stuck to it faithfully. However, the really wonderful news is that it also benefited those who love rich foods and (occasionally) cheated. Moderate MIND dieters who did their best achieved a 35 percent lowered risk of developing dementia.

So how exactly do you feed your head? The MIND diet has 15 components, divided into 10 brainy and five not so brainy foods. The 10 brain-healthy food groups are:


  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Other vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Wine 

The five brain-unhealthy groups are:  

  • Red meats
  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried or fast food

Those who wish to strictly follow the diet should eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, and one other vegetable every day. Poultry and berries should be included in meals at least twice a week, fish at least once a week, beans every other day or so. When looking for a snack, it’s best to reach for nuts. And there’s some good news for those who like to imbibe: A glass of red wine may be added to the mix on a daily basis.

The tough part for most people will be limiting the designated unhealthy foods. The big three that must be cut from your diet are butter, cheese, and fried or fast food. Dieters should eat less than a serving a week for any of these three. When it comes to butter, the easiest of these to overlook — and most likely to sneak into your food — you should eat less than a single tablespoon each day overall.

If you’re unsure about allowable grains, the Whole Grains Council provides a list of the many grains you can fill up on, and these include corn, brown rice, barley, and wheat.

So where does this diet come from? It’s a Frankenstein of sorts, the brain child (no pun intended) of Dr. Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist and professor at Rush University, and her colleagues. The science team cross-bred the Mediterranean diet with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet in order to create the new hybrid. They chose these two foundational diets because both not only reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack, and stroke, they also protect, to a lesser degree, against dementia.

So bring on the sushi, start cooking up the rice and beans. Whether you’re young or old, aim for healthy now and you will feel the positive effects tomorrow as well as today.

Source: Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, et al. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. 2015.

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