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Stay Sharp With the MIND Diet

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Green leafy vegetables

Fitness is a key component for aging well and keeping our minds sharp. Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper is evidence of that, and research at The Cooper Institute has confirmed it. So in addition to achieving (and then maintaining) a physically active lifestyle, you may wonder, How else can I keep my brain healthy?

Making some changes in what you eat could have a big impact. The MIND diet has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slow cognitive decline. MIND is short for the Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It is a hybrid between two well-known diets: the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.

The researchers who studied this new eating pattern found that participants who followed the MIND diet had a 53 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and that even moderate adherence to the MIND diet put participants at a 35 percent lower risk of developing the disease. In addition, for those who were following the MIND eating pattern closely, their rate of cognitive decline was significantly slower.

The MIND diet emphasizes natural, plant-based foods and specifically promotes berries and green leafy vegetables. Foods to be limited include those high in saturated fat like red meat, butter and cheese and low-nutrient foods like pastries and sweets. Fifteen dietary components—10 “brain-healthy” food groups and 5 “unhealthy” food groups—make up the MIND diet. The goal is to eat more of the brain-healthy foods and limit or avoid the unhealthy ones.

10 Brain-Healthy Foods to Include

  1. Green Leafy Vegetables: ≥ 6 servings/week (e.g., spinach, dark greens, kale, romaine, collards)
  2. Other Vegetables: ≥ 1 serving/day
  3. Nuts: ≥ 5 servings/week (1 oz. serving)
  4. Berries: ≥ 2 servings/week
  5. Beans: ≥ 3 servings/week
  6. Whole Grains: ≥ 3 servings/day (e.g., corn, brown rice, quinoa, 100% whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, popcorn)
  7. Fish (not fried): ≥ 1 serving/week
  8. Poultry (not fried): ≥ 2 servings/week
  9. Olive Oil: primary oil used
  10. Wine: 1 glass/day

5 Unhealthy Food Groups to Limit

  1. Red Meats: < 4 servings/week
  2. Butter and Stick Margarine: < 1 Tablespoon/day
  3. Cheese: < 1 serving/week
  4. Pastries and Sweets: < 5 servings/week
  5. Fried Fast Food: < 1 serving/week

Review the lists, and see where you can add more brain-healthy foods and limit those on the unhealthy list. Start today and your 90-year-old self may thank you. 

For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.