Before you go considering what crazy diet to try this January, consider a new approach to wellness.
This diet, called the MIND diet, combines 2 tried and true styles of eating that are proven to improve heart health, reduce hypertension and even decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. The MIND diet will help you shed those New Year pounds, and also keep you heart and brain happy.
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (dietary approach to stop hypertension), both of which are well-studied and proven to offer numerous health benefits.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It was developed by a nutritional epidemiologist, Martha Clare Morris, at Rush University Medical Center through a study that was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Her goal was to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by promoting a diet consisting of brain-healthy foods.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating foods that are as natural as possible, while limiting unhealthy fats and red meat. The DASH diet aims to reduce hypertension by helping people eat foods that can lower their sodium intake and blood pressure. The MIND diet recommends eating 10 foods daily and avoiding five types of foods.
The healthy-food groups include:
- Green, leafy vegetables: Aim for six or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens and salads.
- All other vegetables: Try to eat another vegetable in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once a day. It is best to choose non-starchy vegetables because they have a lot of nutrients with a low number of calories.
- Berries: Eat berries at least twice a week. Although the published research only includes strawberries, you should also consume other berries like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for their antioxidant benefits.
- Nuts: Try to get five servings of nuts or more each week. The creators of the MIND diet don’t specify what kind of nuts to consume, but it is probably best to vary the type of nuts you eat to obtain a variety of nutrients.
- Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
- Whole grains: Aim for at least three servings daily. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread.
- Fish: Eat fish at least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Beans: Include beans in at least four meals every week. This includes all beans, lentils and soybeans.
- Poultry: Try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Note that fried chicken is not encouraged on the MIND diet.
- Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit the brain. However, much research has focused on the red wine compound resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The five foods to avoid are:
- Butter and margarine: Try to eat less than 1 tablespoon (about 14 grams) daily. Instead, try using olive oil as your primary cooking fat, and dipping your bread in olive oil with herbs.
- Cheese: The MIND diet recommends limiting your cheese consumption to less than once per week.
- Red meat: Aim for no more than three servings each week. This includes all beef, pork, lamb and products made from these meats.
- Fried food: The MIND diet highly discourages fried food, especially the kind from fast-food restaurants. Limit your consumption to less than once per week.
- Pastries and sweets: This includes most of the processed junk food and desserts you can think of. Ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, donuts, candy and more. Try to limit these to no more than four times a week.
A good New Years resolution would be to focus on adding or replacing one food per week and/or removing one of the harmful food groups. You can try to have all 10 foods down by the time mid-March hits, and by April you should be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle!
The researchers’ main goal in creating the MIND diet was to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it is estimated that about a half-million Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies of the MIND diet have shown that the diet can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in those who meticulously adhere to the diet. Even if you can’t stick to it 100%, you can still see many benefits if you only follow it moderately. The longer you follow the MIND diet, the better protected you will become from developing Alzheimer’s.
In various studies, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have each been found to have health benefits in other areas as well. The DASH diet can help decrease blood sugar levels possibly due to a higher consumption of probiotics. The DASH diet may also help reduce blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks, and systolic blood pressure could be reduced eight to 14 points over time.
The Mediterranean diet can help dieters lose weight and lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. The Mediterranean-style diet is also associated with lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease.