Debating Diets: What is the MIND diet?

Thinking about starting a new diet? While the amount of information available can be overwhelming, it’s possible to find a diet that is safe, suitable and effective for your lifestyle.

Emily Monfiletto, senior registered dietitian with Baylor Medicine, discusses what you need to know about the MIND diet.

Q: What is the MIND diet and how does it work?

A: The Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet, is a combination of the Mediterranean eating pattern as well as the DASH eating pattern. Researchers have looked at the possibility that a combination of these two eating patterns could potentially delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

More research is needed, but the thought is that this combination may work by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which causes damage to cells – especially brain cells.

Q: What research is available related to the MIND diet and Alzheimer’s disease?

A: The studies that have been conducted so far are observational, but the research is promising. Observational studies have found that individuals who followed the MIND diet rigorously lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. Individuals who followed the MIND diet moderately saw a 35% reduction in risk for developing the disease.

At least two servings of poultry per week is recommended for the MIND diet.
Q: What are the recommended foods? Discouraged foods?

A: The recommended foods are: vegetables, (especially green, leafy vegetables), berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry and wine.
Note that it is not recommended to drink more than one glass (five ounces) of wine daily when following this plan.

Discouraged foods are: butter or margarine, cheese, red meat, fried foods, pastries and sweets.

Q: What are the nutritional benefits of this diet? Can it help with weight management?

A: Overall, there are many benefits to the MIND diet outside of brain health. The diet is high in fiber as well as lower in saturated fat and added sugar. This can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also potentially work for weight loss, but should be individualized based on each person and their goals.

Q: Who should avoid this diet?

A: This is a healthy eating pattern for anyone to follow. If you have any food allergies or intolerances, you can modify the plan based on your needs.

Q: What kind of physiological changes or side effects should be expected?

A: Typically, there are none. If you are not used to consuming higher amounts of fiber, you will want to slowly increase intake of higher fiber foods to help avoid typical side effects such as bloating or gas.

Q: What should people know before considering this diet?

A: Drinking wine is not mandatory. If you are currently not drinking, or have health conditions where it is not recommended to drink alcohol, then it is best to continue to avoid. You can still gain plenty of benefits from following this particular eating pattern with or without wine.

Additional Resources

Debating Diets: What does it mean to be ‘flexitarian?’

See more from the Debating Diets series.

-By Nicole Blanton

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