There’s growing evidence that eating the right foods for your brain could help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third.
A study by researchers at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, looked at more than 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98 who filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. It found participants whose diets most closely followed the MIND recommendations had a level of cognitive function the equivalent of a person 7.5 years younger.
MIND stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The MIND diet aims to reduce dementia and the decline in brain health that often occurs as people get older. It combines aspects of two very popular diets, the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
Many experts regard the Mediterranean and DASH diets as some of the healthiest. Research has shown they can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and several other diseases. But researchers wanted to create a diet specifically to help improve brain function and prevent dementia. To do this, they combined foods from the Mediterranean and DASH diets that had been shown to benefit brain health.
Foods to eat on the MIND diet:
- Green leafy vegetables – The MIND diet recommends frequent servings of green leafy vegetables. Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and other greens are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients. At least two servings a week can help, and researchers found six or more servings a week provide the greatest brain benefits.
- General vegetables – Like other diets focused on weight loss and heart health, the MIND diet emphasizes the importance of vegetables for brain health. The researchers recommend eating a salad and at least one other vegetable every day to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s
- Nuts – Nuts contain healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants, and other studies have found they can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MIND diet recommends eating nuts at least five times a week.
- Berries – Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain. Strawberries have also shown benefits in past studies looking at the effect of food on cognitive function. The MIND diet recommends eating berries at least twice a week.
- Beans – High in fibre and protein, and low in calories and fat, they also help keep your mind sharp as part of the MIND diet. The researchers recommend eating beans three times a week to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Whole grains – Whole grains are a key component of the MIND diet. It recommends at least three servings a day.
- Fish – The MIND diet study found eating fish at least once a week helps protect brain function.
- Poultry – Poultry is another part of a brain-healthy eating plan, according to the MIND diet. It recommends two or more servings a week.
- Olive oil – Olive oil beat out other forms of cooking oil and fats in the MIND diet. The researchers found people who used olive oil as their primary oil at home saw greater protection against cognitive decline.
Foods to avoid on the MIND Diet:
- 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, lollies and more. Try to limit these to no more than four times a week.
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