You may think of cognitive problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as issues you won’t have to worry about until old. If only this were true. In reality, studies suggest that deterioration of the neurons in your brain accumulates over the course of your life – just like wear and tear on your joints. But you can take steps to decrease the damage to your joints and now, thanks to new research, you can considerably lower the risk of cognitive decline by cleaning up your diet. The key to healthy mind lies in the MIND diet.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The MIND diet is actually a mix of two healthy diets: the Mediterranean diet rich in healthy fats and another diet developed to treat high blood pressure called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Both have been shown to help slow down mental decline, and MIND increases the effect.
The MIND diet isn’t a set of hard and fast rules. Instead there’s a list of 10 brain-boosting food groups you should incorporate into your diet and 5 foods you should limit. You should eat plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens, wholegrains, berries, nuts, beans, poultry, fish, olive oil and drink wine in moderation, while you should avoid butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, sweets and pastries, and fried food.
A study on the MIND diet showed that sticking closely to these guidelines leads to a 53% reduction in risk of cognitive decline. Following the diet half the time still provided a 35% improvement.
It comes to Alzheimer’s disease due to an accumulation of a protein called amyloid beta plaque, which disrupts the communication between neurons and leads to inflammation, causing a gradual decrease in brain volume. Nutrients in your food can speed up or prevent this inflammation.
The MIND diet promotes foods that will help including lutein found in leafy vegetables, polyphenols in berries, and folate in wholegrains. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish are essential for healthy functioning of neurons and synaptic functions.
The ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats in your diet is also crucial. You want a higher ratio of unsaturated fat like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (from olive oil and nuts) to saturated fat (meat and dairy). Inflammation and a diet higher in saturated fats disrupts the blood-brain barrier, which keeps harmful substances out of the brain and ushers in essential nutrients to support brain function.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. Among major diseases, it’s the fifth leading causes of death in the United States and second in the UK – and it’s the only one we don’t have any treatment or cure for. So if a simple change of your diet could decrease the risk of getting it, do it. The longer you eat well and clean, the better your health will be throughout your life.