Want an extra reason to eat healthy? The food selections you make daily may increase your odds to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, some scientists say.
Currently, more than 5 million Americans over age 65 are affected by Alzheimer’s. Researchers have discovered that people who follow a diet that includes foods like leafy greens, berries, and fish had a significant drop in their risk of getting the memory-killing disorder.
The MIND diet is a new eating plan that can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. Its abbreviation stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s quite similar to two other meal ideas: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. The MIND program “specifically includes nutrients and foods that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain,” says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, director of nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical Center. Here’s how the diet plan works:
You eat things from these ten food groups:
1. Green leafy vegetables (like salad greens and spinach): six servings per week
2. Nuts: Five servings per week
3. Other vegetables: At least one a day
4. Wine: One glass per day
5. Fish: One meal a week
6. Whole grains: Two or more servings a day
7. Beans: Rather then three servings a week
8. Poultry (like turkey or chicken): Two times a week
9. Olive oil: Use it as your cooking oil
10. Berries: More than two servings a week
You need to avoid:
1. Red meat: Less than four portions a week
2. Sweets and Pastries: Less than five servings a week
3. Cheese: Less than one serving a week
4. Fast or Fried food: Less than one serving a week
5. Margarine and Butter: Less than a tablespoon daily
The most recent report based on this meal plan showed that people who stuck to it decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53% – that’s big. But even more importantly, health scientists found that adults who follow the plan only part of the time still lowered their risk of the disease by about 34%. On the other hand, people who only “moderately” follow the DASH and Mediterranean diets had no drop in their Alzheimer’s risk.
Scientists still need to do extensive research on the MIND approach, “but it’s a very encouraging start,” says Cecilia Rokusek, a dietitian at Nova Southeastern University. She further states that it shows “what you eat can make a big impact on whether you develop Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Even better yet, she says one of the best features of the plan is that you don’t have to stick to it one hundred percent to see some benefits. “That makes it more likely you’ll incorporate it for a long time,” she says.
If you decide to make your diet more MIND-like, Rokusek has a few recommendations. She advises to “keep your food portions in check” and “be careful about how you cook your meals.” Additionally, cooking with oils and sauces “can add some extra calories and hidden ingredients like sugar,” Rokusek says.
And as always, don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
If you don’t have a family history of the disease or other risk factors, you may still want to try this diet. It focuses on consuming nutritious whole foods, so “it’s not good only for your brain, but it’s beneficial to your heart and your overall health,” says Majid Fotuhi, MD, Ph.D., and CEO of the Memosyn Neurology Institute.
Fotuhi says it is important to remember that, although your diet plays a big role in your health, it is “only one aspect of Alzheimer’s disease.” To lower your risk even more, manage your stress levels and get regular exercise.