The Mediterranean and the DASH diets have each been shown to benefit the heart. DASH is, in fact, an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. A new diet that combines components from the Mediterranean and DASH diets goes beyond just being heart healthy. It also appears to boost the health of your brain.
The name of the new diet is a mouthful: Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. Luckily, its acronym makes it easy to remember: the MIND diet.
"When we looked at cognitive decline, the MIND diet outperformed the Mediterranean and DASH diets," says Martha Clare Morris, who developed the MIND diet. In a study conducted by Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Illinois, participants who rigorously adhered to the MIND diet had the cognitive abilities of a person 71/2 years younger. Study participants were an average age of 81.
To develop the MIND diet, Morris chose from foods recommended by the Mediterranean and DASH diets, so they had already been shown to be protective against cardiovascular disease. To be included in the MIND diet, each food also had to have a considerable body of research showing it promoted cognitive health.
The MIND diet recommends eating foods from these "brain-healthy" groups: whole grains, vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables), nuts, berries (especially blueberries and strawberries), beans, fish and poultry. Whole grains appear to be especially beneficial, so you should try to have at least three servings a day. Also, use olive oil as your go-to oil for cooking and salads.
As important as what you should eat is what you should avoid. To reap the full cognitive health effects of the MIND diet, you should limit the amount of red meat (less than three servings a week), butter and margarine (less than 1 tablespoon a day), fried foods, whole milk cheese and pastries. Fast food should also be avoided or at least limited to no more than once a week.
And you can toast your health by adding a daily glass of wine, which is an important component of the Mediterranean diet. "There are a significant number of studies that have shown that very moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk of dementia," Morris says. "They fared better in their risk compared to those who abstained from alcohol."