MIND diet for brain health: short and long term effects

Every year, US News and World Reports publishes its list of the best diets. This list has nothing to do with what’s “trending” or what celebrities do. This is what is actually recommended by nationally recognized nutritionists and physicians, including experts in heart health and human behavior.

You * might * be able to guess what got to the top of their just released 2022 list. The Mediterranean diet is no stranger to number one and it was again ranked number one, followed by the DASH diet and the flexitarian diet. But there’s another regime in the top five that doesn’t get as much press as the reigning trio. The MIND diet (number four on the list) is a dietary model developed by researchers based on studies showing the protective effects of certain foods specifically related to brain health. MIND is actually an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and the diet was developed by nutrition researcher Martha Clare Morris, PhD, and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The diet is divided into 15 categories: 10 Types of Foods That Are Healthy for the Brain and Five Types of Foods You Should Minimize. The foods that people are encouraged to eat the most are leafy greens, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, berries, poultry, fish, and olive oil. This way, you get lots of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and antioxidants, all of which have been scientifically proven time and time again to be beneficial for the brain.

If you switch from a standard American diet to the MIND diet for brain health, can you really expect to see a difference in the short and long term? Dietitians who have studied the diet wholeheartedly say yes. Right here, MIND diet for beginners ($12) author Kelli McGrane, RD, and The MIND Diet Plan and Cookbook ($ 13) Author Julie Andrews, RD, both detail exactly how following the MIND diet affects brain health, both right after you make the change and if you stick to it for good.

What Happens To Your Brain Right After You Start The MIND Diet

If you’re used to eating a diet of mostly nutrient-poor foods and then switching to the MIND diet, Andrews says a brain change you can expect right away is better focus and focus. She explains that this is because the cornerstones of the diet have been directly linked to improving brain function in these ways.

McGrane agrees. “In my professional experience as a counselor, I regularly hear clients mention that they feel more energized and don’t experience as much brain fog after cutting down on ultra-processed foods and incorporating more whole foods. in their diet, ”she says. . What has been minimized is just as important as the foods you eat – sugar, sodium, and simple carbohydrates. These foods are known to cause brain fog because they cause spikes and drops in blood sugar, which in turn affects mental clarity.

Along with better mental clarity, Andrews says another cognitive change you may experience relatively soon after starting the diet is improved mental health. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the same foods that are scientifically linked to reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression are central to this diet. (For the record, this specifically includes whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and nuts.) But McGrane says more studies need to be done focusing specifically on the MIND diet. to really prove the connection. “There is currently very little research on the link between the MIND diet and mental health, particularly depression and anxiety,” she says, adding that what does exist shows mixed results.

While the effects of the way you eat can have a powerful effect on your focus and mood, McGrane says it’s only one piece of the puzzle. “Other lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and staying hydrated are also essential,” she says. But chances are, the immediate brain health benefits you experience after starting the MIND diet will make you stick with it. And that also comes with its own unique advantages.

What happens to your brain when you follow the MIND diet long-term:

If you stick with the MIND diet, both experts say you can expect the initial benefits of improved focus and, for some, better mental health to continue. You are also, they say, less likely to suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or other dementia. “Research on the MIND diet shows promise for its long-term effects on brain health,” says Andrews. “In fact, studies from Rush University, the birthplace of the MIND diet, show that those who follow the MIND diet can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53%!” Plus, Andrews says you don’t have to follow it absolutely perfectly to feel the benefits. “Even following the MIND diet ‘partially’, which means you follow some of the recommendations, can lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s pretty potent,” she says.

McGrane adds that diet is related to supporting general brain health into old age, not just memory. “It may also help protect against general cognitive decline. In fact, the Memory and Aging Project found that consuming one serving of leafy green vegetables per day – which is a key part of the MIND diet – was associated with slower cognitive decline,” she said. said.

The scientifically established link between the MIND diet and the prevention of cognitive decline is very exciting, but it is also important to note that there are other factors at play, some of which are completely beyond our control. Unfortunately, we simply cannot control everything that happens to us as we age.

Because the MIND diet has both short and long term brain benefits, the two dietitians say the diet is literally for everyone, but Andrews says it is especially beneficial for older people. “It is specifically designed to help people of all ages lower their risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline,” she says. “I recommend it to people who have a diagnosis or a family history of these conditions, in particular, but the recommendations are good for everyone and it’s never too late to start incorporating these recommendations into your lifestyle. “

If starting to try seems overwhelming, McGrane recommends starting small (a few MIND-inspired meals a week) and not spending too much time doing it perfectly. Remember, you don’t have to follow it 100% to reap the benefits. There are also useful cookbooks filled with inspiration for meals, like the aforementioned books from each expert.

What’s great about the MIND diet is that it’s not super restrictive. (TBH, no food plan meant to be followed for the long term should be.) There is absolutely no shortage of meals you can prepare when you stick to the meal plan, regardless of your taste preferences. . And you’ll benefit your brain in many ways in the process. Definitely something to keep in mind.

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