Short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, the MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, and was developed by Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center, U.S.A..
Both the Mediterranean and DASH diets have previously been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and dementia, with Morris and her colleagues using previous research to assess which foods and their nutrients have a positive, or negative effect on the brain.
In recent studies participants who followed the diet rigorously showed up to a 53% percent lower risk of Alzheimer's, with those who didn't follow the diet strictly still showing around a 35% lower risk of the disease.
The diet may also slow cognitive decline among older adults even when they are not at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
The diet consists of 15 dietary components, with ten "brain-healthy food groups" and five unhealthy groups.
To benefit from the cognitive-protecting effects of the diet the team advise the following guidelines:
- Eat a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day
- Snack most days on nuts
- Eat beans every other day
- Eat poultry at least twice a week
- Eat fish at least once a week
- Enjoy a glass of wine a day
- Eat berries at least twice a week
Berries are the only fruit specifically to be included in the MIND diet, with previous studies showing that strawberries have shown to have a positive effect on the cognitive function of the brain, and with Morris and her team believing blueberries to be one of the most powerful foods available for protecting the brain.
However to really increase your chance of improving cognitive health, the five unhealthy brain food groups, which include red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food, must be limited. The team's guidelines for the unhealthy food groups include restricting butter to less than 1 tablespoon a day, and less than one serving a week of sweets and pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.
Morris does note however that the results of her study need to be confirmed by other research teams through randomized trials, and across different populations of participants.
Now in its sixth year, the US News & World Report annual "Best Diets" looks at 35 different diets and ranks them in a variety of categories. Using sources that include medical journals and government reports, the team assess the effectiveness of each diet in promoting weight loss and protecting against various diseases, as well as how easy they are to follow and any possible health risks they may pose.
The MIND diet tied first place in the easiest diet to follow category and tied second place in best overall diet. It also tied third and fourth for best diet for healthy eating and best diet for diabetes respectively, and came fourth for best heart-healthy diet.