16 January 2018The MIND Diet

The MIND diet highlights foods that are good for the brain. The diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist and director of the MIND Center for Brain Health at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Morris, a Harvard trained physician, conducts research on nutrition and its impact on Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The MIND Diet is basically a modification of the Mediterranean and DASH diets that specifically includes foods that enhance brain health. The diet is being studied for its impact on the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

What is the diet?

The MIND diet focuses on foods, not supplements, rich in vitamins E, B12, folate and niacin, and antioxidants lutein, beta-carotene and flavonoids, along with omega-3 fatty acids and vegetable oils. It limits foods high in saturated and trans fats.

The plan includes foods from ten groups:

  • 6 or more servings/week: green, leafy vegetables
  • 1 or more servings/day: other vegetables
  • 5 servings/week: nuts
  • 2 or more servings/week: berries
  • 3 or more servings/week: beans
  • 3 or more servings/day: whole grains
  • 1 serving/week: fish
  • 2 servings/week: poultry
  • Daily as main cooking oil: olive oil
  • 1 glass/day: wine

It limits foods from five categories: red meat (less than four servings per week), butter and stick margarine (less than one tablespoon a day), cheese (less than one serving a week), pastries and sweets (less than five servings a week), and fried or fast food (less than one serving a week).

Morris states that the more closely you follow the plan, the greater the brain health benefits, but it also suggests that loosely following the plan still has some benefit for the brain.

Pros

  • The MIND diet is very healthy and balanced, and is good for overall health, including your heart.
  • It is easy to follow and is not strict.
  • The diet could promote weight loss because of the exclusion of large amounts of high calorie blasters, such as red meat, sweets, cheese, butter, and fried and fast foods.
  • The recently published edition of the book includes 80 recipes developed by the author's daughter, who is a chef.
  • Is very diabetes-friendly as it is balanced, limits sweets, and is heart-healthy. I would adapt it for diabetes by spreading foods throughout the day and balancing the carb foods with non-carb foods.

Cons

  • The guidelines are fairly loose as participants are left on their own to carry out the plan.
  • There is little focus on exercise.

Cost

The book is available on Amazon. There are many books with similar titles. Look for Diet for the MIND, The Latest Science on What to Eat to Prevent Alzheimer's and Cognitive Decline by Martha Morris, Dec. 26, 2017. Hardcover price is $17.09, while the Kindle edition is $14.99.

One might state that eating healthy foods can be expensive, but I would argue that medical costs associated with Alzheimer's disease can be devastating. Think of it as an investment in your future.

Social Support

There is no formal social support available for this diet at this time. However, MyNetDiary has a Community Forum that helps people connect with each other for support with healthier lifestyle and weight loss.

Summary

The MIND Diet is a sound, healthy eating plan that is a smart choice for someone wanting to benefit their mind, body and overall health. If your track your intake, then you can also make the diet work for weight loss (by controlling calories).

US News & World Report ranks diets annually, using input from a national panel of health experts. Diets are ranked according to ease of following, nutrition, safety, effectiveness, and protection against diabetes and heart disease. In 2018, the MIND Diet ranked #5 in the following categories: Best Diets Overall, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Best Heart-Healthy Diets and Easiest Diets to Follow. It ranked #23 in Best Weight-Loss Diets, which is not surprising since the diet is not designed specifically for weight loss.

Does it work?

Yes, if you create the needed calories deficit for weight loss, this plan will help you lose weight. However, the primary purpose of this plan is to lower risk for Alzheimer's disease. Morris et al. published a study in 2015 that included food frequency questionnaires from 923 participants, age 58-98, over 41/2 years. The study results showed that those who strictly followed the MIND diet had about 53% lower risk of Alzheimer's. Even those who followed it more loosely showed a 35% lower risk of Alzheimer's. Morris and her research group are currently performing clinical trials to further study the effects of the MIND diet.

Who would most benefit from this diet?

This program would be a good fit for someone who wants to focus on maintaining their brain health along with benefiting their overall health. Because of the focus on lower calorie foods, it would likely lead to weight loss but calorie control is not the focus.

Is it viable long term?

Yes, it is safe, extremely healthy, includes all food groups and is effective long term.

Do I like this diet?

Yes. I would recommend this program for someone looking for a nutrition plan that benefits mind, body and overall health.

More Resources

For basic information about the MIND Diet and other diets, check out WebMD's The MIND Diet May Help Prevent Alzheimer's, Weight Loss & Diet Plans A - Z and US News & World Report Best Diets 2018 Report.

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE
Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Indialantic, Florida
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Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Mediterranean Style Other Health Issues/Aging Weight Loss/Diets

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