Boost Memory And Brain Function With The MIND Diet

Medically reviewed by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD Cheryl Mussatto Cheryl MussattoMS, RD, LD
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years
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The MIND diet is a science-approved diet for boosting memory and brain function. This diet was created by Prof. Morris and colleagues of the Rush University Medical Center. It was found to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by 35% – 53% in participants who adhered to it (1),(2). This indicates a direct correlation between food and brain health. This article helps you understand the MIND diet in detail, foods to eat, and a 7-day sample menu plan to get you started. Read on.

What Is The MIND Diet And What To Eat?

The MIND diet is a diet that is good for the brain (1). It is a nutritional strategy that delays and prevents neurodegeneration.

The full form of MIND is Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

The MIND diet includes foods groups that boost brain function, prevent memory loss, and reduce blood pressure.  Here’s what to eat while on this diet:

  • Berries – Morris says, “the MIND diet specifically includes foods and nutrients that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain, such as berries.” Consume at least two servings of two to three types of berries per day. Have strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
  • Veggies – Have at least six servings of leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, radish greens, bok choy, and lettuce, per week and one serving of non-starchy veggies per day.
  • Olive Oil – Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet and is a healthy fat containing a good dose of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Use it as your main cooking oil or as a salad dressing.
  • Nuts – Nuts are a great snack. They contain healthy fats and are great sources of protein, dietary fiber, vitamin E, and minerals. Have five servings of nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia, and pine nuts per week.
  • Fish – Fatty fish, like trout, salmon, mackerel, sardine, tuna, silver carp, and hilsa, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower inflammation and oxidative stress (3). The omega-3s are also involved in neuronal plasticity (the ability of the brain to change continuously) (4). Consume wild-caught fish at least once a week.
  • Whole Grains– Consume at least three servings of brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole-grain bread per day.
  • Poultry– Consume poached or steamed chicken breast and ground turkey at least twice a week (5). Eggs are also good to consume. Do not consume fried chicken or egg yolk if you have high cholesterol.
  • Legumes– Consume four servings of soybeans, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas per week.
  • Wine – The resveratrol in red wine may help protect the heart and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (6), (7). Consume half a glass of red wine per day.

What foods are a strict no-no on the MIND diet? Scroll down to find out.

Foods To Avoid

  • Fried Foods– Foods like fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, and other fast foods are loaded with unhealthy fats and may increase oxidative stress levels in the body.
  • Red Meat– Reduce red meat consumption. The high amount of saturated fat in red meat may pose a serious threat to your heart and brain health. You may consume 1-2 servings of red meat per week.
  • High-Salt And High-Sugar Foods – Avoid salty and sugary foods like potato wafers, burgers, salted nuts, canned foods, frozen meats, sauces, and candies at all costs.
  • Butter And Margarine – Cut down on your butter and margarine consumption to one tablespoon per day.
  • Cheese – Limit your cheese consumption to serving per week.

If your doctor approves and you want to follow the MIND diet, this 7-day sample meal plan can help you get started. Take a look.

7-Day MIND Diet Meal Plan

Day1Breakfast – Oatmeal + berries + almonds

Lunch – Tuna salad with olive oil and lime juice dressing

Dinner – Lentil soup

Day2Breakfast – Scrambled egg whites + ½ avocado + 1 whole-grain toast

Lunch – Mushroom or chicken soup

Dinner – Grilled salmon and blanched veggies

Day3Breakfast – Berry smoothie bowl

Lunch – Turkey taco + yogurt

Dinner – Tofu salad

Day4Breakfast – Spinach omelet

Lunch – Asian-style chicken and brown rice

Dinner – Kidney bean chili

Day5Breakfast – Spinach and banana smoothie with flaxseed powder

Lunch – Vegetable quinoa + 1 cup buttermilk

Dinner – Baked salmon with veggies

Day6Breakfast – 1 whole-grain toast with 2 teaspoons butter + 1 poached egg

Lunch – Steak with grilled veggies

Dinner – Cream of mushroom soup

Day7Breakfast – Mushroom and avocado toast + juice of ½ grapefruit

Lunch – Vegetable semolina topped with toasted nuts

Dinner – Cucumber soup + grilled salmon

Once you start following this eating pattern, you will not feel like you are following a “diet.” It will be your new lifestyle. What happens to your body when you are on the MIND diet? Find out below.

How Does The MIND Diet Work?

The MIND diet involves reducing the intake of unhealthy foods and increasing the intake of foods that have healing properties.

Unhealthy foods cause inflammation in the body. This, in turn, damages cellular function, DNA, and brain cells. The MIND diet, on the other hand, helps reduce inflammation, thereby restoring DNA structure and brain and cellular function.

As mentioned earlier, the MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet lowers the incidences of chronic diseases, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and improves metabolic health (8), (9).

The DASH diet, on the other hand, lowers blood pressure in people with hypertension (10).

Consuming lean proteins, low-sugar, low-salt, whole foods, healthy fats, and regular physical activity improves overall well-being and boosts brain function (8), (11). Here are some more scientific studies on the MIND diet.

The MIND Diet – Scientific Evidence

  • The MIND diet is based on scientific research. Dr. Morris and her colleagues conducted an experiment on 923 participants between the ages of 58-98 and followed up for four and a half years. The research team concluded that even moderate adherence to the MIND diet led to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (2), (12).
  • Another MIND diet study was conducted by Agnes Berendsen et al. from Wageningen University, Netherland. The diets of 16,058 women aged 70 and over were monitored from 1984 to 1998, and this was followed up by assessing cognitive abilities from 1995 to 2001 through telephonic interviews. The research team found that long-term adherence to the MIND diet led to better verbal memory (13).
  • A research team led by Dr. Claire T. Mc. Evoy experimented on 5,907 women of age 68±10 with the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet. The participants’ cognitive performance was measured. It was found that participants with greater adherence to the Mediterranean and MIND diets had a better cognitive function and lowered cognitive impairment (14).
  • A 2018 MIND diet study showed that this diet might help delay the progression of Parkinson’s disease in the elderly (15).

MIND diet can be followed by anyone as it has many other benefits.

MIND Diet Benefits

  • Reduces Oxidative Stress– The MIND diet recommends consuming foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (olive oil, fatty fish, and nuts). Omega-3 fatty acids help scavenge the harmful free oxygen radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body (16).
  • Reduces Inflammation – The omega-3 fatty acids in various recommended foods of the MIND diet help balance the omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids ratio. This helps reduce inflammation in the body (17), (18).
  • Reduce Harmful Proteins – Beta-amyloid proteins are protein fragments that are harmful to the body. They may cause plaque build-up in the brain, causing brain cell death. This may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s (19). The MIND diet reduces the intake of saturated fats, thereby lowering the levels of beta-amyloid proteins.
  • Morris and her team researched for years before concluding that the MIND diet is probably what we need to prevent brain degeneration. Their work is a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease prevention and protection.

Talk to your doctor and start following a healthy diet like the MIND diet or fast intermittently. Intermittent fasting has also shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in lab animals (20). Help your loved one with Alzheimer’s improve their brain function and quality of life. Take care!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat eggs on the MIND diet?

Yes, you can eat eggs on the MIND diet. Avoid consuming the yolk if your cholesterol levels are high.

How effective is the MIND diet?

The MIND diet is an effective diet for improving memory, preventing cognitive degeneration, and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s. It includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, and dietary fiber, which help preserve brain structure and function.

Can you lose weight on the MIND diet?

Yes, you may lose weight on the MIND diet. It allows you to consume healthy foods and workout while reducing the consumption of high-calorie and salty junk foods.

What vitamin is best for memory?

Vitamins E, D, A, and B12 are good for improving memory.

What is the best herb for dementia?

Gotu kola, ginkgo Biloba, turmeric, and ashwagandha are good for dementia.

Who created the MIND diet?

The MIND diet was created by Prof. Martha Clare Morris and colleagues of the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, USA.

How can I enhance my memory?

The best way to enhance memory is to reduce the consumption of junk, high-sugar, and salty foods. Consume nuts, seeds, fatty fish, eggs, legumes, whole grains, and veggies. Start working out 5 hours a week and pick up an old hobby. Stay stress-free. Talk to a licensed psychiatrist if you want help in dealing with any kind of mental trauma. Take out time to travel, read, listen to music, dance, and interact with people with similar interests.

Can I eat peanut butter on the MIND diet?

Yes, you can eat two tablespoons of peanut butter every day. Make sure you are not allergic to peanuts.

20 sources

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Cheryl Mussatto

Cheryl MussattoMS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City with over 25 years of experience. She is also an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, Ks where she teaches Basic Nutrition and a blog contributor for Dr. David B. Samadi, a world renowned prostate cancer surgeon and urologic oncologist. Cheryl has a master’s...read full bio

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