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Try the Mind Diet – A Smart Way to Eat

Posted 1/22/2016 by UHBlog

Learn how to keep your cognitive skills sharp and reduce the risk of dementia.

Mind Diet

Nutritional researchers have discovered that just a few tweaks to a grocery list may be the way to slow normal brain aging and cognitive decline.

“The Mind Diet is a healthy, largely plant-based diet that can be very helpful for brain health,” says registered and licensed dietitian Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD. “The results from the initial study are very promising.”

The Mind Diet is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and is based on a study funded by the National Institute of Aging. If followed closely, the diet is believed to significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 54 percent, and 35 percent if moderately followed.

The diet is a hybrid of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet that is rich in olive oil and vegetables, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that helps reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke. This diet differs slightly from the others in that it is designed to create a nutritional prescription to fight the aging of the brain.

Although foods like cheese, red meat and fried foods are limited or eaten sparingly on the Mind Diet, berries – the only fruit recommended on the diet – are relegated to superstar status. That’s because berries have long been known to shore up memory and boost brainpower.

“The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents in berries – fresh or frozen – help protect brain cells from damage and that is important to long-term brain health,” says Kavaras.

Topping the Mind Diet menu are 10 brain-healthy food groups and five unhealthy food groups.

The brain-healthy foods are:

  1. Green leafy vegetables, like spinach and salad greens – at least six servings a week
  2. Other vegetables – at least one a day
  3. Nuts – five servings a week
  4. Berries, preferably blueberries – two or more servings a week
  5. Beans – at least three servings a week
  6. Whole grains – three or more servings a day
  7. Fish – once a week
  8. Poultry, such as chicken or turkey – two times a week
  9. Olive oil – use it as your main cooking oil
  10. Wine – one glass a day

The foods to limit or avoid are:

  1. Red meat – less than four servings a week
  2. Butter and margarine – eat less than a tablespoon daily
  3. Cheese – less than one serving a week
  4. Pastries and sweets – less than five servings a week
  5. Fried or fast food – less than one serving a week

Whether you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or other risk factors, the Mind Diet is a sensible eating option all around, Kavaras says.

“The most important thing is to make healthy food choices – not only for your brain, but for the rest of your body,” she says. “No matter which diet you choose, research continuously demonstrates that whole foods such as green vegetables, nuts and whole grains are beneficial for brain and overall health.”

For more information on senior health nutritional needs, contact Kavaras at or call 216-286-4103.

is a registered and licensed dietitian at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Kavaras or any other University Hospitals health care professional online.

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