5 Simple Ways to Follow the MIND Diet to Boost Brain Health and Live Longer

5 Simple Ways to Follow the MIND Diet to Boost Brain Health and Live Longer

The MIND diet focuses on eating patterns that protect your brain as you age, and you can start with simple habits like adding more berries or green vegetables to your meals.
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  • The MIND diet is designed to help prevent cognitive decline that occurs with age, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It is similar to the Mediterranean diet but recommends more specific foods such as berries and vegetables.
  • Start following the MIND diet with simple steps, like adding a few servings of vegetables each week.

A simple Mediterranean-style eating plan may be one of the best ways to protect your brain (and body) as you age, and experts say you can start by simply adding it to your shopping list and daily diet.

The MIND diet (which stands for Mediterranean DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) combines elements of the very healthy Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy DASH diet, with foods associated with preventing cognitive decline with age.

It ranks alongside the Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest eating styles and is a similar non-restrictive, flexible eating plan. It was developed by a team of Harvard and Rush University researchers led by epidemiology professor Dr. Martha Claire Morris, who died in 2020.

Her daughter, Laura Morris, is a chef, personal trainer, and continues her work, co-authoring The Official MIND Diet.

She told Business Insider that it differs from other Mediterranean diets and similar healthy eating plans in that it provides more specific recommendations, including 10 food groups to eat more of, including leafy greens, other vegetables, berries, Olive oil, nuts and seeds, fish, chicken, whole grains, beans and wine (in moderation).

Morris said the recommendations are based on research on which foods, nutrients and dietary patterns can help prevent health problems such as dementia and also contribute to overall longevity.

The MIND diet focuses on helping you add more foods that support cognitive function while gradually reducing foods associated with worse brain health, such as red meat and sweets. The difference, says Jennifer Ventrelle, a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Official MIND Diet,” is that you don’t need to completely cut out your favorite foods.

“As a diet, people might expect there to be a strict set of rules, but we’ve written it so the idea is to start on your terms,” ​​she told Business Insider.

Whether you are new to healthy eating. As longtime nutrition nerds, Ventrelle and Morris provide weekly guidance on how to follow the MIND Diet without revolutionizing your life or kitchen.

First, evaluate what you are currently eating, add a few extra specific foods each week, and then gradually increase to avoid common beginner mistakes, such as doing too much too quickly, or restricting your diet.

First record what you have eaten

The first step to starting the MIND diet doesn’t even require a trip to the grocery store. Before you start, Ventrell and Morris recommend keeping track of what you eat so you can evaluate how your typical habits compare to the recommendations.

From there, you can start cutting back a little at a time, such as a few servings of processed or fried foods each week, and gradually add more of the recommended foods.

“If you don’t know what the problem is, you don’t know what to change,” Morris said.

Add brain-healthy foods like berries and green vegetables to what you already eat

One of the distinguishing features of the MIND diet is that rather than banning foods or focusing on what you can’t eat, it emphasizes adding foods to improve your health (or even lose weight, if that’s a goal).

This means you can incorporate the MIND diet into your current habits by building on your usual favorite meals and snacks, such as adding a handful of berries to your morning yogurt or mixing some greens into your smoothie.

“It’s not about limiting yourself by eating only 10 foods on the list and staying away from the foods on the list,” Ventrelle says.

Focus on a few healthy foods each week

While the MIND diet is relatively simple, trying to change everything all at once can be overwhelming. Ventrelle says she still uses simple tools like the MIND diet tracker at home to help her improve over time. Start by making small adjustments in a single category at a time, such as eating fewer servings of red meat or more servings of berries. This way, you can make progress over time.

“Pick one or two things to change and find very specific and measurable ways to change it. Give yourself some grace,” Morris says.

Don’t wait – now is the best time to start the MIND diet

Morris says the MIND diet can be beneficial at any age because brain changes start happening as early as your 30s. Although diet cannot reverse Alzheimer’s disease, there is evidence that it may also have a protective effect in older adults.

“There’s no right time. It’s never too early or too late,” she said.

Don’t worry about being perfect

Before you panic about checking every box on the MIND Dietary Guidelines, know that this is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. Research shows that the benefits of the MIND diet can occur within limits, so even if you don’t get the correct portions of each food each week, making small changes can protect your brain.

“Even if it’s not perfect, you can still follow it exactly. The idea is to improve your current situation,” Morris said.

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