The MIND Diet Health Plan

The MIND diet is designed to support brain health throughout a person’s life and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but it is also good for the heart and general wellness. In a nutshell, this diet encourages increasing the intake of plant-based foods and decreasing saturated fats, sugar and red meat.

What is the MIND Diet?

The MIND (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is based on the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, with modifications based on the scientific evidence about the effects of nutrition on brain function.

This diet was founded on the results of a study funded by the National Institute on Aging. The goal was to uncover and emphasize brain-healthy foods that lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet emphasizes whole plant-based foods and limits red meat, sugar, and foods high in saturated fats. In observational studies ranging from 900-16k people over 58 years of age, eating a MIND diet was linked to improved memory, decreased cognitive decline, and lower rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Mind Diet Foods

The MIND diet focuses on foods rich in antioxidants (lutein, carotenoids, and flavonoids), vitamins (E, folate, and niacin), and omega-3 fatty acids. It limits foods high in saturated and trans fats.

This diet outlines 10 brain-healthy food categories and provides minimum serving suggestions for each to maximize benefits:

Whole grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal):

3 servings a day

Serving size: ½ cup

Green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards, arugula):

6 servings a week

Serving size: 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked

Nuts (e.g., walnuts, macadamia, almonds, pecans):

5 servings a week

Serving size: ⅓ cup

Beans (e.g., lentils, garbanzo, mung bean, pinto bean, black beans etc):

3 servings a week

Serving Size: ½ cup

Berries (e.g., blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries):

2 servings a week

Serving size: ½ cup

Poultry (chicken, turkey):

2 servings a week

Serving size: 3 oz cooked

Other vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, squash, peppers):

1 serving a day

Serving size: 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked

Fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, trout, halibut, sardines, herring):

1 serving a week

Serving size: 3 oz cooked

Wine (red or white; red wine contains resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

No more than one glass a day

Serving size: 5 oz

Primary oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The MIND diet encourages limiting the intake of foods that are high in saturated and/or trans fats to the following maximum serving:

Butter and margarine: 1 tbsp/day Pastries and sweets: 5 servings/week Red meat: 4 servings/week Cheese: 1 serving/week Fried or fast food: 1 serving/week

The Mind Diet Plan

The primary focus of the MIND diet is to increase the types of foods that support brain health and to cut down on those that don’t. There are no limits on calories or number of meals per day, and, unlike other diets, it doesn’t require eliminating entire food groups, like fats or carbohydrates.

The MIND diet is not a strict diet. Rather, it provides guidelines to follow on a daily or weekly basis. In an observational study, even mildly following the diet reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in over 900 adults (58-98 years of age).

When selecting MIND-diet foods, it is best to choose fresh or frozen berries and vegetables. Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are higher in vitamins and minerals that support brain health compared to precooked or canned foods.

To help you stick to the MIND diet, have the following tips in mind:

Aim to eat one green salad every day. Pair with a soup or sandwich at lunch or include one before dinner.

Keep frozen berries on hand. These are cheaper and available throughout the year. Add them to morning smoothies, oatmeal, or as a quick snack.

Choose whole grains over refined. Eat brown rice, quinoa, or ancient grains over white pasta and bread.

Batch-cook meatless meals for easy lunches. Bean chili, lentil dahl, chickpea curries are great reheated for lunch on busy work days.

How Does the Mind Diet Boost Health?

What differentiates the MIND diet from its parent diets is its focus on identifying key foods, serving sizes and frequencies that protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cognitive decline.

All the key foods included in the MIND diet have been researched for their brain-protective effects:

Leafy green vegetables, high in vitamins (C, E, K, and folate) and antioxidants, slowed cognitive decline and protected against the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease (observational studies of 3k elderly people).

Antioxidant-rich berries are the only fruit highlighted in the MIND diet. Eating berries was also linked to decreased neuron loss and improved memory and cognition in studies of up to 16k older people. In one clinical trial, supplementing with a blueberry concentrate improved brain activity and memory in 12 seniors over 65 years old.

Whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are high in B vitamins and vitamin E. These vitamins decreased the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia and improved memory in 5000 older people.

Fish is an excellent source of the brain-protective omega-3 fatty acid DHA. In one trial, 900 mg/day DHA (one serving of sardines or salmon) improved memory and learning in >400 adults. Eating fish once a week was linked to a 60% decrease in Alzheimer’s risk in older people, while omega-3s enhanced cognition in mild Alzheimer’s.

Health Benefits of the MIND Diet

1) The MIND Diet Improves Brain Health

In numerous human and animal studies, foods highlighted in the MIND diet reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and improved memory. This was particularly so in those with healthy brain function or at the very early stages of cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

In a clinical trial of 923 people, modest compliance to the MIND diet for 4.5 years decreased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53% in those over 60 years of age. In comparison, people had to comply very strictly to the Mediterranean or DASH diet to see similar results.

The main foods that protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are precisely those highlighted in MIND diet (extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and reduced dairy), according to comprehensive reviews on nutrition and brain health.

In observational studies of 2-10k people aged 55 years or older, eating MIND diet foods protected against Alzheimer’s and dementia. On the other hand, eating white bread, high-fat dairy products, eggs, meat, fried foods, and sweets increased these risks.

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D (salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines) should be prioritized. Omega-3s from fish and marine oils were linked to prevention and improvement of Alzheimer’s disease. Greatest benefits were seen in people with healthy brain function, those at the earliest disease stages, and in non-carriers of the ApoE4 allele (reviews of observational and clinical studies).

The MIND diet limits alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day, a quantity that protected against Alzheimer’s and dementia in observational studies. Inversely, both abstinence and heavier consumption (more than 2 drinks per day) were linked with greater risk.

Memory and Cognition In a clinical trial of about 500 older people (>70 years of age), the Mediterranean diet enhanced with olive oil or nuts improved cognition more than a low-fat diet. Specifically, polyphenols in olive oil improve learning and memory, according to reviews of human and animal studies.

Eating MIND-diet foods improved cognitive function including memory, attention and visual-spatial skills in observational studies of over 23k people (aged 58 years or more). Lower intake of vegetables and legumes, specifically, was linked to cognitive decline.

Each of the specific foods highlighted in the MIND diet (extra virgin olive oil, berries, leafy green vegetables) improved cognition, learning, memory and reduced age-related brain dysfunction and oxidative damage in rats and mice.

2) The MIND Diet Reduces Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can trigger or worsen many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, heart and autoimmune diseases. In some cases, eating mostly MIND-diet-friendly nutrient-dense, plant-based foods and eliminating high-fat and sugary foods can reduce inflammation.

Eating MIND diet foods (legumes, whole grains, vegetables, olive oil) for at least 12 weeks lowered markers of inflammation (analysis of 17 clinical trials and 2,3k people).

In a clinical trial with 164 people at high risk for heart disease, a Mediterranean diet that included 1.5 oz of extra virgin olive oil and ¼ cup of nuts per day reduced inflammatory markers by up to 95% compared to low-fat diets in older people (55-80 years of age).

An observational study of over 24k people linked a diet focused on v