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Diets Deconstructed: MIND Diet

Paleo, Keto, Low Carb. The types of diets are endless, and new ones seem to pop up every day. So, what are the differences and which ones are worth my time? We go to the experts in our series Diets Deconstructed.

Below, OhioHealth dietitian Jenny Pitcher, RDN, LD, CHWC, RYT, gives the low-down on the MIND Diet so you can decide if it’s right for you.

Diet Theory

While most diets focus on weight loss, the MIND diet is all about — you guessed it — the mind. It combines aspects of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, with a primary focus on brain-friendly foods. The theory behind the MIND diet is that you can preserve your brain health, and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, through nutrition.

Expected Outcomes

Research has shown that people who strictly follow the MIND diet cut their risk of Alzheimer’s by an average of 53 percent. Studies also indicate that people who loosely follow the diet can still reduce their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 35 percent.

Not only does this way of eating help preserve brain function, it also helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, it can help lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. And, of course, when you’re eating healthy, you may also lose weight.

Encouraged Foods

The MIND diet allows for a lot of flexibility. It encourages eating primarily healthy foods and limiting unhealthy ones. But it doesn’t call for eliminating any food altogether.

Eat often:

  • Beans (three times a week or more)
  • Berries (at least twice a week)
  • Fish (at least once a week)
  • Green leafy vegetables (every day)
  • Nuts (five times a week or more)
  • Olive oil
  • Other vegetables (at least once a day)
  • Poultry (at least twice a week)
  • Whole grains (at least three servings a day)

Eat in moderation:

  • Red meat (not more than four times a week)
  • Fried or fast food (not more than once a week)
  • Butter (not more than a tablespoon a day)
  • Cheese (not more than a serving a week)
  • Pastries or sweets (not more than five a week)
  • Wine or other alcoholic drinks (not more than one a day)

Discouraged Foods

There are no foods that you’re instructed to avoid entirely. However, it’s best to significantly limit or avoid:

  • Added sugar: soft drinks, cookies, etc.
  • Highly processed foods: many things that come in packages and have multiple ingredients
  • Processed meat: sausage, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
  • Refined grains: White bread and pasta, etc.
  • Saturated fats and trans fats: butter, margarine, many packaged foods, etc.

Dietitian’s Take

Who It’s For

The MIND diet is safe for most people. If you have a medical condition or food allergy that requires you to avoid certain food(s), make the necessary adjustments.

Ease of Use

U.S. News & World Report named the MIND diet “America’s easiest to follow diet.” The encouraged foods are easy to find and easy to prepare. There is no calorie counting or food scales, and no eliminating food groups. As with any eating plan, it helps to plan ahead to make sure you have what you need on hand.

Sustainability

This diet incorporates a large variety of flavorful foods from all the different food groups and a lot of flexibility. Because of this, the MIND diet is safe and reasonably easy to make your life-long eating plan.

Supplementation

The MIND diet is filled with a variety of nutritious foods. No specific vitamins or supplements are needed.

Exercise

Exercise is not a specified component of the MIND diet. However, exercise is proven to support overall health, including brain health.

Bottom Line

As a dietitian, I don’t believe it’s necessary to follow any specific diet. However, some people benefit from a plan that helps them make healthier choices. The MIND diet is essentially a healthy way to eat a plant-based diet that contains a good variety of flavor and nutrients. So, if you’re looking for an eating plan that will help improve both your physical and cognitive health, the MIND diet is a good and sustainable option.

Looking to improve your nutrition? Contact us at the McConnell Heart Health Center, we’re ready to support you!

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