MIND Your Healthy Brain

By Patrice Powers-Baker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

The best foods for your brain are the same foods that also help your heart. There are foods as well as healthy behaviors like getting enough sleep, physical exercise and mental exercises that can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

MIND is an acronym for a much longer title of “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” As the name suggests, the MIND diet is a combination of the helpful things we’ve learned about the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, and a combination of brain-friendly foods.

While the MIND diet does recommend five types of foods to limit, the focus of the diet is about adding more healthful foods to your week. Research shows that following the MIND diet could slow brain aging more than seven years and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet shares a list of 10 brain-healthy foods to eat regularly and a list of five unhealthy foods to limit. Here’s what to eat:

  • At least 6 servings of leafy green vegetables a week. This is about one cup of leafy green vegetables every day. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, and also a very good source of folic acid, which is needed for good brain health.
  • At least 1 serving of another type of vegetable every day. If you have 2 or more servings of other vegetables a day, that’s even better!
  • At least 5 servings of nuts every week. One fourth of a cup of nuts is a serving so grab a handful as a snack or top your cereal or salad with nuts. Nuts are a good source of vitamin E, known for its brain-protective qualities.
  • At least 2 servings of berries each week. A serving of berries is a half-cup. Eat them fresh or mix frozen berries into a smoothie.
  • At least 4 servings of beans a week. This is a half-cup of beans about every other day. It could be kidney beans in chili, chickpeas in hummus, dried lentils in soup, pinto beans, or black-eyed peas. Beans are an economic source of protein and fiber.
  • At least 3 servings of whole grains each day. Whole grains are foods like brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta, tortillas, or bread. One serving is equal to a slice of break, a half-cup of cooked oatmeal, pasta, rice, or ready-to-eat cereal.
  • At least 1 serving of fish each week. Fatty fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain development and health. Recommended fish include salmon, herring, mackerel, canned tuna, pollack, and sardines. If you don’t eat fish, talk to your health care provider about taking an omega-3 supplement.
  • At least 2 servings of poultry like turkey or chicken each week.
  • Use olive oil for cooking and in place of butter or margarine.
  • After checking with your health care provider for any health or medication issues, the MIND diet can include one glass of red wine a day.

There are five types of food which are high in saturated and trans-fat and they tend to be common in the American diet. The MIND diet recommends eating:

  • Less than 5 servings a week of pastries and sweets.
  • Less than 5 servings a week of red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and products made from these meats.
  • Less than 1 serving a week of cheese (1/3 cup).
  • Less than 1 Tablespoon a day of butter or stick margarine.
  • Less than 1 serving a week of fried food or fast food.

While there is continued research on the MIND diet, as well as both the Mediterranean and DASH diets, the recommendations have been beneficial to those who have followed it. There are a few challenges related to the MIND diet. It is very flexible and does not include rigid meal plans. This means that people need to plan their own meals and recipes based on the previously listed foods. This could be challenging for those who do not cook. If you eat out a lot, it might take time and effort to review restaurant menus. Try out the MIND diet for your body and mind!