September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities, which interferes with daily life. It has a devastating effect on people who have it and their loved ones, and ongoing research is investigating how best to reduce the chances of developing this disease. The MIND diet is a hybrid between the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet, a diet shown to help lower high blood pressure. It consists of 10 food groups which have been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, and 5 groups linked with increased risk. Closely following the MIND diet is associated with a 53% reduced risk of developing the disease.
While the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets are all linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease when followed closely, researchers have found that following the MIND diet to a moderate degree is still linked with a 35% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease! The longer people stick to the MIND Diet, the lower their risk.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Eating six or more servings of leafy greens (for example kale, spinach, chard, collard greens) per week provided the greatest benefits in preventing Alzheimer’s. Click here for recipes to increase your intake of leafy green vegetables.
Other vegetables were associated with reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s also, though not to the same extent as green leafy vegetables. The creators of the MIND diet advise having a salad of green leafy vegetables plus at least one other serving of vegetables per day.
While we know that all fruit is good for us, berries have been particularly linked with keeping the brain healthy. The MIND diet advises that you eat a half cup of berries at least twice per week for maximum benefits.
The MIND diet advocates eating a portion of nuts at least 5 times per week. Remember that nuts are high in calories, so be sure to monitor your portion size, which is around one ounce of nuts. Different nuts contain different nutrients, so try eating a variety of nuts to get the maximum benefits.
While fans of the Paleo diet like to disregard the benefits of whole grains, the MIND diet advises to have three portions of whole grains daily. Check out this menu for recipe ideas.
MIND recommends having poultry twice per week. Choose healthier preparation methods to reduce saturated fat intake, such as removing the skin from chicken breasts and baking instead frying.
Having a 5 ounce glass of wine daily has been associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Of course we know that any type of alcohol increases your risk of cancer, so it may be worth weighing up the benefits of this advice in the context of overall cancer risk.
The MIND diet recommends having olive oil daily to provide healthy fats to the diet. Try a simple vinaigrette added to salad for the easiest method of consumption.
Foods That Increase Risk
Five unhealthy food categories were associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: red meats, fried and fast foods, butter and stick margarine, cheese and sweet food products.
To truly reap the benefits of the MIND Diet, it is advised that we limited red meat to less than 4 times per week, have fried food less than once per week,
It’s also important to remember that diet is only one step you can take to reduce your risk. Its thought that leading a lifestyle that promotes healthy aging, such as exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and managing quitting smoking can also help to reduce your chances of developing this cruel disease.