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The MIND Diet has gained huge popularity recently and there is good reason for it.
This is actually a very specific diet plan that has been put together recently, being created by a team of academics and nutritionists looking to combine the best of what two other very popular diet plans (DASH & Mediterranean) have to offer and using that to help create an eating plan that would be one of the best out there.
Based on looking at a combination of factors like heart health, weight loss, anti-aging properties, and other positive benefits that are each part of one of the two diets that MIND is based on.
The design of the MIND Diet has great sources and comes from an excellent background. As with all diet plans there are good points and bad points. Read on to get the full breakdown and to figure out if this might be a viable option for you and your goals or not.
What is the MIND Diet?
MIND is actually an acronym for an incredibly long and descriptive title for the dietary plan.
The full name is Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. That’s quite a bit of a mouthful which is why the shorter hand of MIND works really well. As the name indicates, this is a combination of the two diets in the name: the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet.
This eating plan was put together by a team of individuals that is the brain child of Martha Clare Morris from Rush University Medical Center .
This took place due to studies from formal institutions looking at brain health and aging, as well as how diet could potentially affect both .
Special focus was taken on the foods that are found in both of these diets, focusing on pulling together an eating plan from foods that have been shown in studies to show the most potential in boosting brain health and to focus most on those while trimming out the others.
This means that the diet is filled with foods that come from those two diets, but it does focus in.
Fruit is widespread from these parent diet plans but MIND doesn’t look at wide fruit consumption: it focuses specifically on berries because berries in particular have been shown in laboratory controlled studies to help with brain health while other types of fruit have not.
Top Ten Foods in the MIND Diet
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, greens, and more
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Heart healthy berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
- Olive oil as the main cooking oil
- Whole grains
- Beans & legumes
- Chicken or turkey (grilled and skinless – not breaded or fried)
While these are major foods of the MIND Diet , that doesn’t mean they are eaten evenly. There’s not a precise measurement of how much of each to take, but there are some general guidelines.
Whole grains are the backbone of this diet as they are recommended for 3 servings a day – one for each meal. Things like oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat versions of common grains like rice or bread all make the mark here.
Leafy vegetables are a minimum of six servings a week with an encouragement for as much as you want above that while other veggies should get a shot once a day.
Nuts are five times a week, beans are four times a week, while berries, poultry, and fish are both twice a week.
These are all minimums although if in doubt go a touch lighter on the meat side and heavier on vegetables, leafy vegetables, and approved berries. Or more whole grains since those are pretty much always acceptable as part of a meal.
There are also foods that you need to avoid like the plague if you are going to successfully follow this diet plan.
These not only foods that pack on calories, fat, and make it hard to get to (or stay at) a healthy weight but also foods that in some studies have been shown to cause potential health issues by themselves or when in conjunction with foods that would otherwise be healthy.
Food to Avoid
The short list is pretty simple. If following the MIND diet you will want to avoid:
- Butter & margarine
- Fried food
- Red meat
There are small exceptions.
If you have lean lamb twice a week for red meat that can be acceptable but it still is not ideal and should be replaced by fatty fish like salmon or lean poultry like chicken or turkey. These are much better options for anyone looking to get the full benefits of this diet plan.
What a Doctor Says about the MIND Diet:
Early research shows that closely following the MIND diet is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slower loss of brain function over time. However, more research is needed to understand the diet’s effects.
Because the MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, it wouldn’t be surprising if future research shows it offers other health benefits associated with these two diet . -Keith Pearson, PhD, RD
The main focus of this diet is helping brain health, increasing blood flow, and using nutrition to try to stave off issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s .
Heart health comes after that and while this isn’t primarily a weight loss based diet in some cases this can still lead to weight loss especially for heavily overweight individuals or those starting out with bad eating habits and moving to good ones that this diet encourages.
Overall there’s good reason to see why people are really interested in this diet plan.
According to the U.S. News & World Report’s large list of best diets (see our list here), MIND is tied for 4th for heart health, healthy eating, easiest to follow, and best overall diet plan. They are also #10 as the best for diabetes management.
Adding in the fact many of these foods are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients and it’s a good set of guidelines for healthy eating that gives you a great chance at a long healthy life.
Does it Work for Weight Loss?
This is the one potential chink in the armor when it comes to looking at the MIND diet. Most people hear the word “diet” and assume the eating plan is mostly based around losing weight and that isn’t always going to be the case.
With the MIND diet there’s a good chance that for those who are heavily overweight, obese, or morbidly obese that there will be good long-term weight loss .
However, this is not a diet plan that is designed for quick weight loss or with dropping pounds as the main goal.
In fact in the earlier mentioned U.S. News & World Report diet ratings, it is ranked #29 for best weight loss diets and #33 in best fast weight loss diets.
This isn’t built for just gutting out the fat, but for individuals with bad eating habits following this diet will almost certainly lead to way less calories eaten, far less sugar, and that combination alone over the long-term can help to facilitate slow but steady and consistent weight loss.
For dieters looking for early victories fast to get encouraged and keep going, this isn’t going to be the best choice. When it comes to weight loss the carbs mean no quick loss of water weight, though the balance means weight that comes off tends to stay off.
Great for the long game with weight loss, but not for knocking off those last 20 lbs or losing a lot of weight fast.
Pros & Cons
We’ve done a pretty good job going over the pros and cons of this diet, but as a basic summary:
- Comes from two proven healthy diets
- May boost brain power & heart health
- Can lead to gradual safe weight loss
- Encourages long-term good behaviors
- Easy to follow because of variety of options
- Very light on the details, not great for dieters who want a strict meal plan
- Relatively new on the scene so lacks resources, recipes, and support communities
- Not the best choice for morbidly obese who need to lose a ton of weight sooner rather than later
- Not the best choice for people with insulin issues due to high grain content
MIND Diet Recipes
Online is one of the best options because of the sheer lack of options and resources that are always going to be available online .
However, since the groups of foods that are encouraged are clear, finding any recipe that works with those ingredients and none of the banned ones gives you options. Another idea is to look to the source.
Since the MIND diet is based on DASH and Mediterranean cuisines, most of the dishes from each of these diets will be fully acceptable under the MIND. That means any Mediterranean recipe source or any DASH recipe source will have recipes that are fully usable.
Not every single recipe from those parent diets will work under the MIND diet plan however this is a great way to look through various options and to get an idea of the many types of meals that could work.
Simply searching for “MIND diet menu” will also yield several results, although you always need to make sure to double check the meals and ingredients used to make sure they really do match up.
In the end the MIND diet is definitely a winner. Healthy foods that are great for your heart health, mental sharpness, and general overall health will never be a bad thing.
Eating a diet very low in sugar and loaded with green leafy vegetables, antioxidant filled berries, and whole natural foods will lead to better eating habits period, and better overall health. These are great foods that have a wealth of health benefits.
That’s why they show up in so many top ranked diets and so few diets rank well that don’t have them.
When you start with two top-rated diet plans chances are that what comes out of them will also be outstanding. In the case of the MIND diet that is exactly how it plays out.
- Martha Clare Morris, ScD, Rush University. Retrieved via https://www.rushu.rush.edu/faculty/martha-clare-morris-scd
- Diet Review: DASH, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved via https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/dash-diet/
- Alina Bradford, What Is the MIND Diet, Live Science. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/57132-mind-diet.html
- Keith Pearson, PhD, RD, The MIND Diet: A Detailed Guide for Beginners, Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mind-diet
- What is the MIND Diet? U.S News & World Report. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mind-diet
- Deane Alban, The MIND Diet: How to Eat for a Healthy Mind (+42 Recipes), Be Brain Fit. Retrieved from https://bebrainfit.com/mind-diet-recipes/