While both a Mediterranean-style diet and the DASH eating plan are associated with brain benefits, a hybrid dietary pattern that combines the best of both may be even better at protecting memory and thinking. A 2015 study reported that the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline—equivalent to 7.5 years of younger age. These results were based on data from participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, ages 58 to 98, who were initially free of Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study that analyzed data from these same participants found that people with the highest MIND diet scores were 53 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with the lowest scores. The risk reduction for those whose diets most closely matched the MIND diet was similar to those with the highest adherence to a Mediterranean diet and the DASH plan—but only the top one-third of Mediterranean and DASH scores were associated with lower Alzheimer’s risk. The second-highest third of MIND scores were also associated with lower risk (35 percent), however, suggesting that even modest adherenceto the MIND dietary pattern could be beneficial.
“Inflammation and oxidative stress play a large role in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory and consulting editor for this book. “The MIND diet particularly emphasizes foods, such as green leafy vegetables, berries, and olive oil, which are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that may help to protect against dementia and cognitive decline.”
Recipe for Brain Health
Key ingredients in the MIND diet include:
•• Green leafy vegetables: at least six servings per week
•• Other vegetables: at least one serving per day
•• Berries: at least two servings per week
•• Nuts: at least five servings per week
•• Olive oil as the primary cooking oil
••Whole grains: at least three servings per day
•• Fish (not fried): at least once per week
•• Beans: more than three meals per week
•• Chicken or turkey (not fried): at least two meals per week
••Wine: one glass per day (optional)
The diet also identifies five unhealthy groups to limit:
•• Red meats
•• Butter and stick margarine
•• Pastries and sweets
•• Fried or fast food
The MIND diet imposes specific limits on unhealthy foods. For example, it recommends having less than one serving a week of red meat, cheese, fried or fast food, and pastries and sweets, and less than one tablespoon of butter a day. The researchers note that it’s as important to limit unhealthy foods as it is to eat healthy foods when you’re trying to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
To learn more about the benefits of the MIND diet as well as other healthy eating plans that help brain health, purchase the Heart-Brain Diet from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.