Want to preserve your long-term brain health and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Here are the top 15 foods to eat.
Have you heard of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for high blood pressure or the Mediterranean diet for heart health? When it comes to protecting your brain health, a hybrid of these two eating habits may be the best choice.
It’s nicknamed the “MIND” diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet favors natural plant-based foods while limiting red meat, saturated fats and sweets. And observational studies suggest that this diet can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53%. As well as slow cognitive decline and improve verbal memory.
A 7.5 year younger brain
Researchers developed this diet by examining the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Then they focused on the foods that showed the strongest results in preventing dementia. Vegetables, especially leafy greens, came out on top.
For fruit, berries topped the list.
The researchers then followed the detailed logbooks of a population of older adults for an average of 4.5 years. This is to uncover trends in the diets of those who developed dementia compared to those who did not.
Their finding: Older people whose diets most closely resembled the MIND diet had brains as sharp as people 7.5 years younger. It is a substantial difference. Since it has been suggested to delay dementia by just five years to halve the cost and prevalence of the disease.
Does your diet protect your brain? Take the test.
Give yourself one point for each of the following MIND food rules that you usually follow in your life (up to a maximum of 15 points).
1 At least three servings of whole grains per day
2 Green leafy vegetables (like salad) at least six times a week
3 Other vegetables at least once a day
4 Berries at least twice a week
5 Red meat less than four times a week
6 Fish at least once a week
7 Poultry at least twice a week
8 Beans more than three times a week
9 Nuts at least five times a week
10 Fries or quick meals less than once a week
11 Mainly olive oil for cooking
12 Less than a tablespoon of butter or margarine per day
13 Less than one serving of cheese per week
14 Fewer than five pastries or sweets per week
15 One glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage per day
Both the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet result in similar reductions in Alzheimer’s risk. But the MIND diet is more flexible, which might make it easier to follow on a daily basis. For example, the Mediterranean diet recommends eating fish several days a week, which can be challenging.
Even if everything is not perfect it is (much) better than nothing
Another interesting point to remember! You don’t have to have the perfect diet to benefit from it. While the adults in the study who followed the diet most closely (average score of 9.6 points out of 15) saw their risk of Alzheimer’s decrease the most, those who obtained an average score (7.5 points ) still reduced their risk by more than a third. Consider targeting just one or two of the habits above to improve your score and your brain health.
Morris MC, et al. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 2015;11:1007.
Morris MC, et al. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 2015;11:1015.
Berendsen AM, et al. Association of long-term adherence to the mind diet with cognitive function and cognitive decline in American women. Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2017;11:1.