December 6, 2020

Does the MIND Diet Boost Your Memory?

Our expert's take on this brain-boosting diet

mind diet with salmon eggs and avocado

Did you know that eating well may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to one-third? It’s true!

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The MIND diet mixes parts of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets to form the Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet.

MIND focuses on foods with the most direct brain benefits and shuns items that promote early aging; it recommends 10 brain-boosting foods to love and five brain bashers to limit.

Here, internal medicine specialist Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, MS, offers her perspective:

Love these brain boosters:

Fish

Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help your brain function well.

“Fish eat phytoplankton,” says Dr. Sukol, “which are rich in nutrients that reduce inflammation throughout your brain and body. “You are what you eat, and you are what ‘what-you-eat’ eats.”

Poultry

Choline (in egg yolks), a B vitamin, contributes to healthy brain function.

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Poultry is a source of nourishing protein, though Dr. Sukol believes that meat from animals fed an industrial diet is not the most nourishing source. “Eat the highest quality protein you can access,” she says, “even if that means less animal protein overall.”

Limit these brain bashers:

Red meats (beef and pork)

Studies have shown that red meat increases inflammation, which may affect memory as we age.

Butter and stick margarine

“Small amounts of high-quality butter are okay on occasion,” says Dr. Sukol. “But I avoid margarine and products made with soybean, corn or cottonseed oils, all of which are all sky high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.”

Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation throughout our brains and bodies.

Cheese

Limit cheese to small amounts of higher-quality products, such as from grass-fed animals.

Pastries and sweets

“If it’s your birthday, sure. But these items entertain, they don’t nourish,” says Dr. Sukol. “Baking at home with whole-grain flour, dark chocolate, fruit and oats – that’s an activity I wholeheartedly endorse. But most store-bought treats are made of stripped carbs and ultraprocessed oils that spike blood sugars, waste your insulin, and increase your risk of dementia.”

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Deep-fried or fast food

These products are built from stripped carbs and pro-inflammatory oils. “Watch the words: For example, fast food isn’t food; it’s fast. Junk food isn’t food; it’s junk. If you have to qualify it, it’s usually not food,” says Dr. Sukol.

Is the MIND Diet right for you?

Overall, Dr. Sukol says the MIND diet is based on sound science and offers helpful guidelines for a healthy diet.

Best of all? Moderation counts: the MIND diet offers brain benefits even when you don’t follow it to the letter.

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