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A Brain Health Diet Plan

What is the best diet plan to keep your brain young? Forget fad diets that are popular for losing weight, but have no scientific support for their use.

You should try the MIND diet, designed by scientists to focus on food groups that can boost your brainpower and protect you from age-related problems like Alzheimer’s disease.

What is the MIND diet?

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 consider 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 scientists 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.

For example, both the Mediterranean and DASH diets recommend eating a lot of fruit. Fruit intake has not been correlated with improved brain function, but eating berries has been.

The MIND diet encourages you to eat berries, but does not emphasise consuming fruit in general. There are no set guidelines for how to follow the MIND diet. So here’s a guide to the foods the diet encourages you to eat, and foods that the diet recommends you cut out.

10 foods to eat on the MIND diet 

  • 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. You should eat strawberries, but also  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 at least twice a week. Not fried chicken, lean chicken grilled or over-cooked.
  • Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily. Red wine contains resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. But you should note that subsequent research has shown that the damaging effects of alcohol on your brain probably offset any benefit you get from resveratrol.

If you are unable to consume the targeted amount of servings, don’t quit the MIND diet altogether. Research has shown that following the MIND diet even a moderate amount is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

When you’re following the diet, you can eat more than just these 10 foods. The more you stick to the diet, the better your results may be.

According to research, eating more of the 10 recommended foods and less of the foods to avoid has been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and better brain function over time

The MIND diet encourages the consumption of all kinds of vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry and a moderate amount of wine.

5 Foods to avoid on the MIND Diet.

  • Butter and margarine: Try to eat less than 1 tablespoon daily (ideally none at all). 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 (or none at all).
  • Red meat: Aim for no more than 1 servings each week (ideally none at all). 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 (or none at all).
  • Pastries and sweets: This includes most of the processed junk food and desserts you can think of. Ice cream, biscuits, brownies, cakes, doughnuts and sweets. Try to cur these out completely from your diet or limit these to no more than a few times a week.

Researchers encourage limiting your consumption of these foods because they contain saturated fats and trans fats. Studies have found that trans fats are clearly associated with all sorts of diseases, including heart disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.

The MIND diet encourages limiting your consumption of butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, pastries and sweets because they contain large amounts of saturated fat and trans fat.

The MIND diet reduces oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in your brain

Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals accumulate in the body in large quantities. This often causes damage to cells. The brain is especially vulnerable to this type of damage.

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury and infection. But if it’s not properly regulated, inflammation can also be harmful and contribute to many chronic diseases.

Together, oxidative stress and inflammation are very damaging to the brain. Following the Mediterranean and DASH diets has been associated with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation

Because the MIND diet is a hybrid of these two diets, the foods that make up the MIND diet probably also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

The antioxidants in berries and the vitamin E in olive oil, green leafy vegetables and nuts are thought to benefit brain function by protecting the brain from oxidative stress

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are well-known for their ability to lower inflammation in the brain, and have been associated with slower loss of brain function.

Research has shown that that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of foods encouraged in the MIND diet may help lower the risk of dementia and slow the loss of brain function that can occur with aging.

The MIND diet reduces harmful beta-amyloid proteins

Beta-amyloid proteins are protein fragments found naturally in the body. But they can accumulate and form plaques that build up in the brain, disrupting communication between brain cells and eventually leading to brain cell death.

Many MIND diet foods contain may help prevent the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. The MIND diet also limits foods that contain saturated fats and trans fats, which studies have shown can increase beta-amyloid protein levels in mice’s brains.

Human observational studies have found that consuming these fats was associated with a doubled risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But it is important to note that this type of research is not able to determine cause and effect.

Researchers believe that the foods of the MIND diet contain nutrients that may help prevent beta-amyloid plaque formation, a potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

The MIND diet was created to help prevent dementia and slow the loss of brain function that can happen with age.It encourages its followers to consume vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish, beans, poultry and wine. These foods contain many nutrients that promote good brain health, possibly by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation and the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.

Research shows that closely following the MIND diet is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slower loss of brain function over time.

If you are looking for a way of eating that focuses on maintaining brain health as you age, the MIND diet is a great approach that’s simple to follow.

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