The MIND Diet: A Complete Guide for Beginners

The MIND diet aims to boost brain health (Image via Unsplash/Louis Hansel)
The MIND diet aims to boost brain health (Image via Unsplash/Louis Hansel)

The MIND diet combines the principles of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. It aims to prevent dementia and mental decline and boost brain health. “MIND” stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” DASH refers to Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Benefits of the MIND Diet

These two diets are often considered the two healthiest diets in modern times. Not just brain health, the MIND diet also aims to improve heart health and several other diseases. There are no specific instructions regarding meal plans. It is advised to include brain-healthy foods to prepare meals to get all the benefits. Fresh fruit, vegetables, fatty fish, and olive oil can boost your brain and keep your heart healthy.

Whole foods can prevent cognitive decline (Image via Unsplash/Robina Weermeijer)
Whole foods can prevent cognitive decline (Image via Unsplash/Robina Weermeijer)

Check out this list of foods to boost your brain and memory.

Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet

Combining the principles of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, it is advisable to include the following brain-healthy foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables: Kale, spinach, cooked greens, and salads can be included in your diet regularly. These vegetables provide reasonable amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Non-starchy vegetables: Try to include non-starchy vegetables as they have low calorific value and can help with weight loss.
  • Berries: Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries all have antioxidant properties. They are rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Try to include a handful of berries regularly.
  • Nuts: Five or more servings of nuts each week can keep our brains healthy. The MIND diet doesn’t specify what kind of nuts to consume, but it is best to include those considered brain-healthy foods.
  • Olive oil: Olive oil is the primary cooking oil in the Mediterranean diet. Include it generously. Olive oil is suitable for the heart and brain alike.
  • Whole grains: Choose whole grains like oatmeal (not instant oats), quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and 100% whole wheat bread when preparing your meals.
  • Fish: Eat fish at least thrice per week. Go for fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel to get your fair share of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Beans: This includes all beans, lentils, and soybeans. They are rich in plant-based protein and can be included in moderate amounts.
  • Poultry: Try to include chicken or turkey in your diet plan at least twice weekly. Homemade chicken with light spices is recommended in the MIND diet.
  • Wine: Some studies suggest that red and white wine may benefit your brain because of the compound resveratrol found in red wine. However, overconsumption of alcohol is harmful to health as well. You can include wine in smaller amounts if you wish.

Check out these facts about the Mediterranean diet.

Foods to Avoid on the MIND Diet

This diet recommends restricting processed foods, including:

  • Butter and margarine: Limit your butter and margarine intake to 1 tablespoon (about 14 grams) daily. Make your olive oil dips using herbs. Though butter is healthier than margarine, it might contain high amounts of salt. The DASH duet principle limits salt intake to control hypertension.
  • Cheese: You can eat cheese less than once per week. Go for freshly produced cheese instead of processed ones.
  • Red meat: Red meat must be limited to less than three servings per week. This includes beef, pork, lamb, and products made from these meats.
  • Junk food: The MIND diet discourages consuming junk food and fried food, especially deep-fried fast food. You can have one cheat meal per week if you wish.
  • Processed snacks: Most processed snack foods and desserts are discouraged in this diet, including ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, doughnuts, candy, and other sweetened foods. Restrict these foods as much as possible.
Junk food can lead to heart disease and dementia (Image via Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya)
Junk food can lead to heart disease and dementia (Image via Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya)

Learn how to include cheat meals in your diet.

Bottom Line

The MIND diet aims to improve brain health and reduce the chances of mental decline and dementia. It also includes the principles of the DASH diet to reduce the risk of hypertension. Try including these brain-healthy foods to boost your memory and cognition.

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Edited by Srijan Sen
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