What is the MIND Diet and Can It Help You Lose Weight?May 17, 2022
The MIND diet is about keeping the mind sharp. Americans are living longer overall, and a long life is made better by a healthy and active mind. As millions of Americans get older, losing cognitive abilities can be scarier than changes to the physical body. Could a healthy diet make a difference?
There are research-backed diets that are believed to improve heart health, but what about brain health? Enter: the MIND diet. It is based on findings from two large population studies that came out in 2015 that demonstrated a potential link to the MIND diet and potentially slowing cognitive decline with age.
The MIND diet is a whole foods, plant-based way of eating. It is a blend of the well-established Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, both of which have shown some promise for brain health (see studies referenced above). The MIND diet takes these two ways of eating and optimizes them for brain health. MIND is actually short for a very long name: Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
What Are the Basics of the MIND Diet?
The MIND diet covers 15 food groups, including five types of food to avoid, but twice as many to enjoy. To start, here’s a quick guide to the 10 food groups to eat, how often to eat them, and ideas for doing just that.
What Foods Can You Eat on the MIND Diet?
1. Leafy green vegetables
Enjoy these healthy greens six times a week. Try these favorites:
- spinach in scrambled eggs
- a kale salad
- braised baby bok choy
2. All other vegetables
Aside from greens, vegetables are meant to be enjoyed every day.
Explore the vegetable world, especially richly colored options such as:
- bell peppers
Snack on nuts five times a week.
Store servings of nuts in your desk drawer, and enjoy them at the same time you would a mid-morning or late-afternoon pick-me-up. Almonds, pistachios, and peanuts are all available in snack packs, or make your own mix at home with your favorites.
If you are watching your weight, it’s a good idea to keep track of your portions for all foods, but particularly for calorically dense nuts.
Include beans in three to four meals of your meals each week.
Eat berries twice a week.
Enjoy a basket of strawberries or blueberries for snacking over a couple days.
Frozen unsweetened berries make great smoothie add-ins anytime.
If whole fruit isn’t convenient, try 100-percent, no-added-sugar pomegranate or blueberry juice.
Eat this healthy protein twice a week.
Poultry gives you easy options for meals that you can make one night, then re-purpose for others:
As you get adventurous and try other recipes, remember white meat poultry is best.
Enjoy fish once a week.
Salmon with the skin on is one of the most forgiving fish to cook; all of its healthy fats keep it moist.
Mangle your fish into flakes while trying to get it out of the pan? Not a problem. Tuck the fish bits into tortillas, top with salsa, and viola! Impromptu grilled fish tacos.
If you’re pressed for time, pre-packaged bagged salmon is an easy solution.
8. Whole grains
One and a half cups every day.
Some of the easiest fiber-full whole grains around include:
Both of these grains are cook quickly.
9. Olive oil
Use olive oil daily while cooking, or as a salad dressing.
You can also drizzle it over avocado toast or warmed tomatoes.
At 120 calories/tbsp, olive oils is calorie-dense. It’s important to keep an eye on portion size.
Drink one five-ounce glass of wine every day.
In keeping with its Mediterranean Influence, the MIND diet includes moderate alcohol consumption, approximately 1 glass of wine per day.
Just think of this as one of the perks of sticking to your diet!
Foods to Avoid on the MIND Diet
The foods that are discouraged on the MIND diet tend to be high in saturated fat:
- Fried food
- Pastries and sweets
- Butter and stick margarine
- Red meat
These foods can still be enjoyed occasionally, but moderation is key.
Can you lose weight on the MIND Diet?
Participating in the MIND Diet won’t magically make you lose weight, but it’s a good start. You’ll be eating healthy, whole foods, while avoiding calorie-packed processed foods.
The MIND diet is nutritious and healthy, but it’s still important to keep an eye on your calorie intake and maintain consistent exercise program if you want to drop a few pounds.
What Does Research Say About the MIND Diet?
As people age, they may experience a decline in brain health. Functions that could be impacted include:
- Cognitive function — the ability to think, learn, and remember
- Motor function — the ability to control movement
- Emotional function — how well we interpret and respond to our feelings
- Sensory function — how we respond to sensations of touch
To increase the likelihood of maintaining these abilities, the National Institute on Aging recommends regular health screenings, physical activity, and a healthy diet.
The Bottom Line
The MIND diet is simpler than its component diets because it is less regimented in many ways. For example, you only need to eat fish once a week, while the Mediterranean diet calls for more fish consumption.
Truth be told, it’s not just for older adults. The MIND diet can provide a solid foundation for a healthy way to eat for just about anyone.
Full disclosure: Maggie Moon is the author of The MIND Diet book.