By Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN
According to the National Institute of Health, Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and recent estimates indicate that it may rank third, behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people(1). Research supports that diets recommended for cardiovascular health have also been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.
While the data on exact food components are inconclusive, close adherence to the MIND dietary pattern, which emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as Vitamin E, are strongly associated with brain health. The MIND diet stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” (The DASH diet stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
Equally important to what the MIND dietary pattern includes is what is does not include. Foods that are higher in saturated fats such as red meat, full fat dairy, butter, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried or fast foods should be avoided as they have been linked to increased risk of dementia. Nutrient dense foods such as fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and olive oil are recommended. Not all fruits and vegetables are recommended equally. For instance, berries are emphasized since they have been shown to decrease neuron loss and improve memory. Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and collard greens have been shown to be particularly protective, and are recommended at least six times a week.
The MIND Diet may sound cumbersome at first, but it is fairly simple to follow. Having a green salad and one other vegetable every day, adding frozen berries to oatmeal or yogurt in the morning, and eating fish once a week are simple tweaks that can help meet the recommendations. Think “progress, not perfection” – any step toward the ideal eating pattern will benefit cognitive and cardiovascular health. It is important to note that risk factors for developing cognitive impairment are multifactorial. In addition to following a nutritious diet, other positive lifestyle factors such as physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with risk reduction(1).
The MIND Diet:
|Include These||Serving Sizes||How Often||Examples|
|Green leafy vegetables||1 cup raw leafy½ cup cut-up raw or cooked
½ cup vegetable juice
|Every day||Kale, collard greens, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, spinach|
|Other vegetables||½ cup cut-up raw or cooked
½ cup vegetable juice
|At least once per day||Broccoli, carrots, collards, green beans, green peas, kale, lima beans, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes|
|Nuts||⅓ cup or 1½ oz.
2 Tbsp nut butter
2 Tbsp or ½ oz. seeds
|Every day||Almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter|
|Berries||½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned
¼ cup dried
|At least twice per week||Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries,blackberries|
|Beans||½ cup cooked||Every other day|
|Whole grains||1 oz. slice bread½ cup cooked rice
½ cup cooked pasta
½ cup cooked oatmeal
|3 times per day||Whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa,oatmeal,
|Fish||3 oz. portion||At least once per week||Salmon, halibut, tuna, flounder, mackerel, sardines|
|Poultry||3 oz. portion||At least twice per week|
|Olive oil||1 tsp vegetable oil||2 servings per day|
|Butter and stick margarine|
|Cheese – less than one serving per week|
|Fried or fast food – less than one serving per week|
|Pastries and sweets|
- “Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet.
- Food for Thought: The MIND Diet – Fighting Dementia With Food – Today’s Dietitian Magazine.” Today’s Dietitian, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090115p28.shtml.
- Heller, Marla. “The DASH Diet Eating Plan.” The DASH Diet for Healthy Weight Loss, Lower Blood Pressure & Cholesterol, dashdiet.org/default.asp.
Barbara Broggelwirth is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is currently working with Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients. She works with patients to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals.