Last week, I gave a quick workshop on the MIND diet: a Mediterranean-style pattern of eating that is linked to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and delayed cognitive impairment. We’re talking delaying cognitive impairment by seven years if you eat this way, so it can help quite a bit.
It’s pretty simple: eat some foods often and eat others less often. The more consistently you do, the better your chances of getting the full benefits. However, even people who only followed about half the recommendations had better cognition as they aged. Read on to learn more about what eat to age better.
What to eat
These are your basic foods– you can eat more of any of them and add other foods to round out your meals. Because you will need additional food.
- Fish: once a week
- Nuts: five times a week
- Poultry: twice a week
- Beans and lentils: three servings a week
- Dark green leafy vegetables: six times a week
- Other vegetables: once a day
- Whole grains: three servings a day
- Olive oil: use it as your main source of fat
- Berries: two servings a week
- Wine: one glass per day (only one glass)
Let’s break this down and chat about the individual foods.
How to eat MIND Diet foods
Fish: Any type of fish or seafood counts, from tuna to shrimp to cod. For the best overall health benefits, try to eat one serving of fattier fish like tuna, salmon, or sardines each week. Broil or grill for an entrée, make into a salad, or try sashimi or sushi.
Nuts: Choose any kind of nut or seed that you like. Variety is helpful– walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, hempseeds, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, cashews… plenty of options! Add them to salads, cereal, yogurt, pancakes, muffins, or have as a snack.
Poultry: This is usually pretty easy. Chicken and turkey are typically on menus and easy to find in grocery stores. Roast, grill, stew, or make into soup.
Beans and lentils: You may like them but perhaps you’re not in the routine of eating them. Try chickpeas or kidney beans on a salad, dahl with an Indian meal, lentil soup, hummus, refried beans, black bean soup, or use white beans as the base of a dip instead of sour cream.
Dark green leafy vegetables: There are plenty of options! Try broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, bok choi, gai lan, or beet greens. Grill baby bok choi with a little sesame oil, toss chopped broccoli into omelets, or make spinach an ingredient in scrambled eggs. I adore dinosaur kale in soup.
Other vegetables: Even more options. Try raw, roasted, grilled, stir-fried, steamed, or any other way you might enjoy it. Seasonal options often have the best flavor and quality– like snow peas in the spring and winter squash in the autumn.
Whole grains: Look for options with little or no added salt and sugar. For example, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, bulgur, corn tortillas, popcorn, kasha, and brown rice are all options for whole grains. With breads and cold cereals, check the ingredient labels to ensure you are buying 100% whole grain options.
Olive oil: Select 100% olive oil. I prefer extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings and gentle cooking. For very high heat (450 degrees Fahrenheit and above), I’ll switch to something that tolerate more heat.
Berries: Choose the ones you like! Off-season, the quality of frozen is likely higher.
Wine: If you like to drink responsibly, and don’t have any other health reasons to avoid alcohol, a glass of wine with dinner may be helpful. However, if you have any reasons to avoid alcohol (for example, a family history of breast cancer, addiction, or medications that don’t allow alcohol consumption), try some red grapes for dessert instead.
What if I can’t eat….
Then don’t! The only exception is that I will suggest vegetarians/vegans who are not allergic to fish and shellfish consider a fish oil or krill supplement, as their ethics permit. However, it’s not essential.
Try to eat more of another, similar food group instead. So, for example, if you can’t eat beans, eat more nuts and/or whole grains. If you don’t eat poultry, substitute beans and lentils.
Your brain gets healthier when you consistently eat even just some of these foods. In other words, if you can only follow 8/10 of the guidelines for what to eat, then you are still getting at least half the benefits, if not more. Still have questions? Get in touch.
Coming up next week: What not to eat
Research Article: MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease
Book: Diet for the MIND by Martha Clare Morris
Book: The MIND Diet by Maggie Moon
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