As one of the most common New Year resolutions, there’s a good chance you’re searching for ways to start 2019 by shedding a few pounds. That said, it’s not just your body you should focus on — maintaining a healthy brain is just as important, especially as we age. You may have heard of the link between gut and mind health with diets such as the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet. While those are both good options, you can actually combine the best of each for what’s known as the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet.
According to US News & World Report, which reviewed the diet with a team of experts, the MIND diet “zeroes in on the foods in [Mediterranean and DASH diets] that specifically affect brain health, which may lower your risk of mental decline.” They cite a study done at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago that resulted in a 35 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s in participants who only followed the MIND diet “moderately well,” and a 53 percent lower risk in those who followed it more strictly. MIND puts particular emphasis on whole grains and leafy greens — and requires no calorie counting or cutting. In fact, being full and satiated is encouraged, as long as it’s done with the approved foods.
Tufts University in Massachusetts backed up Rush University’s findings in a June 2018 publication of their Health & Nutrition Letter. In it, they broke down the food components as:
- Whole grains: At least 3 servings a day.
- Leafy greens: At least 6 servings per week.
- Other veggies: At least 1 serving per day.
- Berries: At least 2 servings per week.
- Poultry: At least 2 servings per week.
- Beans: More than 3 servings per week.
- Nuts: At least 5 servings per week.
- Alcohol: One cup of wine per day.
- Butter: Less than 1 pat per day.
- Cheese: Less than 1 ounce per week.
- Pastries and sweets: Less than 5 servings per week.
- Fast and fried foods: Less than 1 serving per week.
- Red or processed meats: Less than 4 servings per week.
The diet also embraces the Mediterranean use of olive oil for baking and cooking, hence the small amount of butter allowed within a week. As you can see, there’s some sacrifices you’ll have to make when it comes to things like sweet treats and fast food, but it will be worth it to keep your cognitive health in peak condition — and slim your waist while you’re at it. You can also skip the glass of wine per day if you’re not a fan of drinking, as that’s totally optional. The idea is to not exceed that amount.
An average day on the MIND diet would look like three servings of whole grains (such as freekeh), a salad with leafy greens and at least one other vegetable, and the glass of wine if you’d like. You can snack on nuts throughout the day and add half a cup of beans to one of your meals every other day. You can also mix things up by adding poultry twice a week, and fish on a weekly basis — just remember to use olive oil when you whip them up. With so many options, chances are high that you won’t even feel like you’re on a diet.