As a generation that focuses on being both as physically and mentally healthy as possible, combating, preventing, and managing our mental health is something that’s important to us. Whether that is by attending regular yoga sessions and going to the gym, or being conscious of what we put in our bodies, we are trying a variety of different things to ensure we can be as healthy as possible.
It’s because of this that many individuals are turning to the MIND diet and taking other necessary steps to prevent neurodegenerative diseases, brain health decline, and maintain brain function.
MIND Diet: What is it?
Researchers from a variety of top US universities came together in 2015 to create the MIND diet. MIND refers to Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and aims to reduce the chance of developing dementia and a decline in brain health that is often associated with older age.
The MIND diet is a combination of both the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) which have both been shown to have significant health benefits for those following them.
What was the aim of the study?
The aim of the MIND diet study was to determine and record the impact that certain foods can have on the brain and whether simply changing your diet slightly can provide long term brain health benefits.
In total, the study took three years to complete and involved over 600 participants and several top researchers. Each participant was of a different age, weight, height and build to enable researches to see if other characteristics played a part in the results. They were asked to follow the MIND diet for the full 3 years as closely or loosely as they liked whilst researchers collected the data.
Upon completion of the study, results showed that following the MIND diet had a major impact on both the physical and mental health of the participants. Of the 923 people that partook overall, one study found that those who’d followed the MIND diet closely had reduced the likeliness of them developing dementia by 53% compared to those that followed it loosely. Furthermore, even the participants that moderately followed the plan reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders by 35%.
What foods are encouraged on the MIND diet?
The MIND diet encourages followers to consume 10 main foods that make up the majority of their food intake each week. These foods are:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
Because all of these foods contain large amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients and are also low in saturates but high in healthy fats, eating a selection of them each day provides the body and the brain with everything it needs to be healthy.
What foods should be limited on the MIND diet?
Along with all other diets, the MIND diet recommends that followers consume a restricted amount of processed foods. This includes:
- Red meat
- Butter and margarine
- Sweet treats
- Fried food
Although all of these foods can and should be enjoyed, it’s vital that they are consumed in moderation because of their high quantities of salt, sugar, trans fats, and saturated fats. Both trans and saturated fats have proven to have an adverse affect on brain health decline and are directly linked to other conditions such as heart disease.
What are the benefits of following the MIND diet?
The MIND diet doesn’t just reduce the risk of developing dementia and slow down brain decline, it also benefits physical and mental health and well being by significantly minimising the production of harmful meta-amyloid proteins and oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidative stress is caused by unstable molecules, known as free radicals, accumulate in large amounts in the body and cause damage to cells.
Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to infection or injury. Although beneficial in small doses, if inflammation isn’t regulated correctly, it can become harmful.
The vitamin E in many of the foods in the MIND diet benefits brain function by protecting it from oxidative stress. Furthermore, omega 3 fatty acids in fish are known to lower brain inflammation and reduce loss of brain function.
- Harmful Beta-Amyloid Proteins
Build ups of beta-amyloid proteins within the brain, also known as plaques, are thought by scientists to be one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because these plaques build up in the brain over time and disrupt signals between brain cells, eventually leading to brain death.
Foods that are particularly high in trans fat and saturated fat can increase the number of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain which is the reason for them being limited whilst following the MIND diet.