Nutrition-wise blog

Feed your mind

By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. March 3, 2016

Did you know that what you eat can affect your brain's function? The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, both known to reduce heart disease, have also been shown to slow cognitive decline.

To look more closely at this association, scientists designed a study called the Mediterranean-DASH diet intervention for neurodegenerative delay (MIND).

As the name suggests, the MIND diet is styled after the Mediterranean and DASH diets but with modifications based on previous research on diet and dementia.

For example, the MIND diet recommends higher levels of vegetables, especially leafy greens, because they appear to have a positive association with slowing cognitive decline. On the other hand, fruits, except for berries, are not associated with slowing cognitive decline.

The MIND diet includes 10 brain-healthy foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Wine

The MIND diet categorizes five foods as unhealthy:

  • Red meat
  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried and fast foods

In this observational study, the MIND diet was strongly associated with slower cognitive decline and had greater estimated effects than either the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet. Of course, future studies are needed to evaluate whether this diet can prevent dementia.

This news provides yet one more reason to eat your vegetables, especially the green and leafy ones. But what about fruit?

Fruit is a low-calorie, nutrient- and fiber-rich food that has long been a part of a healthy eating pattern. There are still good reasons to include it in your diet. For your brain's sake, consider adding more fresh or frozen berries.

Additionally, let's not rule out all things on the "unhealthy" list. Both the Mediterranean and DASH diets included limited quantities of meat and cheese.

What do you think of this research? What brain-healthy foods will make it on your plate?

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March 03, 2016