All About: The MIND Diet

Silhouette of somebody meditating with a colorful background and patterns

What is the MIND Diet? Does it work? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Learn all of the above and more.

What is the MIND Diet?

The MIND Diet is a recent entry to the hundreds of diet options available today. It is a fusion of two popular diet programs: the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. Both of these diets have their benefits; the Mediterranean Diet targets heart health while the DASH Diet aims to help regulate blood pressure. Being a hybrid of the two, the MIND Diet can also be aligned for these two health goals, however, it also has its own focus: brain health.

The "Mediterranean-Dietary Approach to Systolic Hypertension (DASH) Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay" or the MIND Diet is composed of foods that are reputed to be good for the brain. It is designed to prevent and fight brain-related diseases like dementia, stroke, and Alzheimer’s. This diet was officially presented in 2015 and it has since intrigued many with its potential benefits.

How does the MIND Diet work?

The MIND Diet takes a bunch of food types and recipes from both Mediterranean and DASH diets. However, the MIND Diet has its own rule where it restricts certain food types and regulates the consumption of some fruits and vegetables. The diet also has a particular emphasis on groups of food that are beneficial to the brain.

Many of the MIND Diet guides promote the consumption of 10 food types and discourage eating 5 kinds of food. It emphasizes the consumption of the following brain-healthy food types:

  1. Green leafy vegetables
  2. Berries, especially blueberries
  3. Whole grains
  4. Nuts
  5. Beans
  6. Olive oil
  7. Other vegetables
  8. Fish
  9. Poultry
  10. Wine

On the other hand, the diet program advises limiting the following kinds of food. which not only contribute to weight gain, but also lead to cognitive decline in the long run:

  1. Desserts, sweets, and pastries
  2. Cheese
  3. Butter and margarine
  4. Fried food and fast food
  5. Red meat and processed meats

The diet has no specific call-outs about other fruits and eggs. It simply focuses on recommending the 10 food types that benefit the mind and severely limiting the 5 unhealthy foods. Some MIND Diet meal plans consist of other fruits and eggs but this is highly dependent on a dieter’s preference and aim.

Here is a sample overview of a MIND Diet guide on a per-week basis:

  • Green leafy vegetables - 1 or more servings per day: over 7 servings per week
  • Other vegetables - 1 or more servings per day: over 7 servings per week
  • Berries, specifically blueberries - 2 or more servings
  • Whole grains - 3 or more servings per day: over 21 servings per week
  • Nuts - 5 or more servings
  • Beans - 3 or more servings
  • Fish - 1 or more servings
  • Poultry - 2 or more servings
  • Olive oil - best option to use for cooking
  • Wine - 1 glass a day or 7 glasses per week

This is not a strict guide. As long as dieters consume more of these food types, the benefits will be reaped. As for the unhealthy food types, some MIND Diet guides would suggest limiting those to 1 serving per week.

Does the MIND Diet work? What are the benefits of it?

The MIND Diet is still new and various studies on its effects are still underway. However, there are already some results proving its benefits. Purportedly, one study was conducted with healthy older adults trying the MIND Diet and the outcomes showed that their cognitive age was 7.5 years younger than those who did not follow the diet. Additional research also showed that strict adherence to the diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53% in its participants. It also adds that even moderate use of the diet had a 35% improvement. As such, the aim of the MIND Diet which is to improve brain health and prevent age-related diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s seems to be plausible.

While the MIND Diet focuses on brain health, its benefits may also extend to heart health and improved lifestyle. Limiting relatively unhealthy foods like fried foods, fast foods and sweets can reduce calorie intake and bad carbs. Meanwhile, its set of healthy foods introduces a lot of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components to the body. All these factors combined help in weight loss and prevent plaque buildup in arteries that can cause life-threatening diseases.

Further research is still needed to confirm the efficacy of the MIND Diet but its potential benefits specifically for brain health are highly anticipated.

Is the MIND Diet safe? Is the MIND Diet unhealthy?

Various health and nutrition publishings claim that the MIND Diet is generally safe to follow. It restricts mostly unhealthy foods that people don’t necessarily need for survival or gain much health benefits from. Moreover, the foods that the diet program promotes are natural and have great nutritional values.

To date, there are only two potential risks for the MIND Diet: misguidance and wrong food sources. Since most MIND Diet guidelines don’t have a lot of restrictions or strict rules, people are free to adjust and make their personalized versions. This may mislead some dieters to excessive food restriction and develop bad eating habits like craving and overeating. The MIND Diet also promotes the consumption of seafood like the Mediterranean diet. It is important for people who buy and consume fresh fish to know their foods’ sources to avoid the risk of unhealthy contaminants and toxins present in some seafood. As long as a dieter prepares well and follows the current basic guide of the MIND Diet, it is overall healthy.

Finally, people who are pregnant and have pre-existing medical conditions are not advised to proceed to any type of diet without proper consultation with a medical professional.

MIND Diet shopping list, meal plan, and menu

With the health benefits MIND Diet offers, many are encouraged to try it out. It’s quite an easy diet to follow with its specific list of 10 foods.

Here is a sample MIND Diet grocery list:

  • Green leafy vegetables: Kale, spinach, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
  • Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Whole grains: Oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Other fruits and vegetables: Apple, avocado, squash, onions, and tomatoes
  • Fish: Tuna, salmon, herring, and mackerel
  • Poultry: Chicken or turkey
  • Beverage: Black coffee, fresh brew tea bags, and red wine
  • Others: Extra virgin olive oil for cooking, spices, and fresh herbs for ingredients like turmeric and oregano, and brain-healthy treat like dark chocolate

There are plenty of MIND Diet recipes that are not only easy to make but are also delicious. For dieters who want to try this diet, here are examples you can refer to when making your personalized MIND Diet meal plan:

Option 1:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with blueberries
  • Morning Snack: Whole grain crackers with hummus
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with chicken
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon and brown rice with a side salad
  • Evening Snack: A handful of pecans and a glass of wine

Option 2:

  • Breakfast: Wheat toast with almond butter and omelet
  • Morning Snack: Veggie sticks with garlic and herb dip
  • Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich
  • Dinner: Chicken and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice
  • Evening Snack: Dark chocolate trail mix and a glass of wine

A lot of Mediterranean and DASH diet recipes are available and can be adjusted to accommodate the food types MIND Diet recommends.

MIND Diet Books

MIND Diet Recipes

MIND Diet Apps

Looking for more diet ideas?

Try our free Diet Optimizer Quiz and get quick, unique, customized ideas like:

  • Healthier options than soda that taste better than water.
  • Alternatives to french fries, potato chips, or other fried foods.
  • How to get your chocolate fix without the junk ingredients in candy bars.
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