Maintaining a good level of overall health is generally of great importance to older adults living at home and looking to sustain an independent lifestyle. It is widely known that regular exercise and a nutritious diet create the cornerstone for good health. This is true for both the body and mind, as new studies continue to emerge demonstrating the relation between healthy eating and cognitive function.
You may be a bit wary of all these miracle diets that are constantly being promoted to solve various health problems, and improve fitness and appearance. When most people think about diets, it tends to be more about effects on the body. However, the right diet can also have positive effects on the brain.
Trendy diets focused on weight loss and improving physical appearance are often void essential nutrients and proteins necessary for providing the brain with the fuel it needs to function at a high level.
What is the MIND diet?
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As the name would suggest, the diet is focused on foods that stimulate cognitive activity to help prevent or delay neurodegenerative decline.
The MIND diet combines two diets that have been touted by many experts as being amongst the healthiest on the planet: the Mediterranean and the DASH diets.
Most people have heard about the Mediterranean diet and its abundance of purported health benefits. The Med diet focuses on whole foods, and healthy fats and carbs, without sacrificing flavor.
Foods to target with a Mediterranean diet, include:
- Vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, extra virgin olive oil, potatoes, whole grain breads, rice, seafood, quality poultry, eggs, cheese, yoghurt
The DASH diet is quite similar to the Mediterranean diet, with the primary focus being on reducing high blood pressure. This places more emphasis on foods low in sodium, and high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are minerals associated with reducing hypertension.
Foods to target with the DASH diet, include:
- Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats
The MIND diet was designed to combine the best of both of these plant-based diets, to develop a regimen of daily eating with brain-boosting properties. It consists of a variety of foods that have been reported to impact brain health.
Foods to target with the MIND diet, include:
- Leafy greens – spinach, kale, lettuce, cabbage, collards, broccoli
- Berries – an excellent source of antioxidants to reduce inflammation
- Grains – brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal
- Nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts
- Beans – kidney, black, pinto, lentils, soybeans
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fish – fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines are high in omega-3s
- Quality poultry – ideally free range chicken or turkey
- Wine – both red and white have been shown to contribute to brain – No more than 1 glass a day
Foods to avoid with the MIND diet:
- Red meat – 1 serving a week is ok, no more than 3 servings per week (includes beef, pork, lamb)
- Butter and margarine – try using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, margarine is heavily processed and should be completely avoided
- Cheese – all dairy is limited as much as possible
- Fried and processed foods – terrible for the brain and body and should be avoided
- Desserts and pastries – high in sugar which can result in a range of health problems for the body and brain
Load up on Flavonols
Flavonols are a class of flavonoids, which are a type of phytonutrient found in most fruits and vegetables. Research indicates that diets rich in flavonols have been associated with reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Flavonols have antioxidant properties to help reduce chronic inflammation and the risk of vascular disease.
Some recommended ways to increase your flavonol intake, are:
- Replacing coffee with green tea
- Eat more vegetarian dishes, substituting meat for lentils or beans
- Eat more citrus fruit
- Relax with ONE glass of red wine
Did you know that your brain is actually the fattiest organ in your body? That is why healthy fats are needed to keep the brain firing on all cylinders.
This is where many of those trendy weight loss diets fail. You can eat fruit and vegetables all day to get the nutrients the mind and body needs, but without the accompaniment of healthy fats, the body doesn’t have the energy it needs to absorb these nutrients.
Good sources of healthy fats, include:
- Flax, chia, sunflower seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fatty fish
Why Choose the MIND diet?
The MIND diet is an excellent option for seniors because there is absolutely no risk involved. All foods included in the MIND diet are good for your health, and it does not leave out any nutrients, proteins, or fats essential to good health.
The MIND diet combined with regular exercise is a perfect recipe to help optimize brain health.