MIND Diet: The 10 Brain Healthy Food Groups

Discover the 10 brain healthy food groups that make up the MIND diet — they can reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk by 35 percent.

Discover the 10 brain healthy food groups that make up the MIND diet — they can reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk by 35 percent.

The MIND diet could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by over 50 percent and improve your brain health, research finds.

The name ‘MIND diet’ comes from the fact that it is a combination of a Mediterranean diet and a diet developed for cardiovascular health (DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

Both of the diets have been linked to all sorts of benefits, including lower blood pressure, lower depression risk, reduced risk of hearth disease and diabetes.

The MIND diet components

There are 15 components to the MIND diet, 10 foods or types of foods to eat and five to avoid.

Here are the ten in the “brain-healthy food groups”:

  1. Green leafy vegetables: six servings per week of foods such as salads, cooked greens, spinach and kale.
  2. All other vegetables: eat another vegetable on top of green leafy vegetables at least once per day.
  3. Nuts: five servings per week of various types of nuts.
  4. Berries: twice a week eat berries such as strawberries, blueberries or raspberries.
  5. Beans: include soybeans and lentils and other types of bean in at least four meals per week.
  6. Whole grains: have three servings per day of foods like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, oatmeal and brown rice.
  7. Fish: Once a week have fish, preferably one that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines, trout or salmon.
  8. Poultry: eat turkey or chicken at least once a week, but not fried.
  9. Olive oil: use this type of oil as your main cooking oil.
  10. Wine: have no more than one glass of white or red wine per day. Red wine may be better as research has linked its benefits to the compound resveratrol.

In short, the MIND diet involves trying to eat at least three servings of whole grains, one other vegetable, a salad and a glass of wine on most days.

Ideally, it includes beans on most days, snacking on nuts most days, poultry and berries twice a week and fish at least once a week.

Avoid these unhealthy foods

Along with the ten healthy food groups listed above, on the MIND diet it is important to avoid these five foods in the unhealthy group:

  1. Red meats: eat nor more than three servings per week of meats like pork, beef, lamb and anything made of these meats.
  2. Butter and stick margarine: have less than 1 tablespoon per day.
  3. Cheese: limit cheese consumption to once per week.
  4. Pastries and sweets: eat things like ice cream, donuts and candy no more than four times a week.
  5. Fried or fast food: less than once per week or preferably not at all.

In short, for the unhealthy foods, people are advised to limit their intake of fried or fast food, cheese or butter to no more than one serving a week for any of the three.

The reason is because these foods contain high levels of saturated fats and trans fats.

Research on the MIND diet

A range of studies have shown considerable benefits from following the MIND diet, even if not strictly.

One study tracked almost one thousand people for an average of 4.5 years to see whether they ate ‘brain healthy’ foods and if they developed Alzheimer’s disease (Morris et al., 2015).

The study did not get people to change their diet, it merely measured what they were already eating and tracked whether they developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist and the study’s first author, said:

“One of the more exciting things about this is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction in their risk for AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”

Even people who only followed the diet ‘moderately’ saw a 35 percent reduction in risk.

The power of berries

Only one specific food (rather than a group) made the MIND diet.

Dr Morris said:

“Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain.

And strawberries have also performed well in past studies of the effect of food on cognitive function.”

In fact, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries all reduce cognitive decline related to age, research finds (Devore et al., 2012).

All three fruits contain high levels of flavonoids.

Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that can also help reduce inflammation in the brain and body.

The results showed that high berry intake was linked to a delay in cognitive ageing equivalent to 2.5 years.

In other words: berries made their brains work as though they were 2.5 years younger.

Blueberries in particular seem to have a powerful effect on the brain.

Strawberries also have other research backing up their protective effects, as do walnuts.

MIND diet improves brain health

Another more recent study has linked the MIND diet to better brain health and cognitive performance with age (Dhana et al., 2021).

People following the MIND diet benefit from it even when their brains are starting to fill with the tangles of proteins and amyloid plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Klodian Dhana, the study’s first author, explained:

“Some people have enough plaques and tangles in their brains to have a postmortem diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, but they do not develop clinical dementia in their lifetime.

Some have the ability to maintain cognitive function despite the accumulation of these pathologies in the brain, and our study suggests that the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive functions independently of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Mediterranean diet improves memory and thinking skills

A Mediterranean diet leads to improved memory and better thinking skills (Soldevila-Domenech et al., 2021).

This is on top of its known benefits to cardiovascular health.

The Spanish study tracked almost 500 people for three years.

All the people in the study were overweight or obese and had other related health problems, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Along with helping people lose weight and improving their physical health, they also developed better memories and thinking skills.

A Mediterranean-like diet still effective

Even a Mediterranean-like diet helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia (Ballarini et al., 2021).

People who eat relatively higher amounts of vegetables, legumes, fish, fruit, cereals and olive oil are at a lower risk of the disease.

Similarly, consuming less red meat, saturated fatty acids and dairy products was also linked to a lower risk of the disease.

Those who ate something close to the Mediterranean diet were also less likely to suffer from brain shrinkage in vital areas.

The study helps show that even without following the Mediterranean diet strictly, it is still possible to get some benefits by eating something similar.

The results showed that people who regularly ate a Mediterranean-like diet performed better on memory tests.

The MIND diet delays Parkinson’s disease

Another study finds that following the Mediterranean or MIND diet delays the onset of Parkinson’s disease by more than a decade (Metcalfe‐Roach et al., 2020).

Parkinson’s is a long-term neurodegenerative disease that causes problems with movement, including a characteristic shaking.

The results of the study showed that women were particularly well protected by following the MIND diet.

Men were better protected from Parkinson’s by the Mediterranean diet.


6 Signs Of Early-Onset Dementia

Early onset-dementia typically starts in the 40s or 50s and can be mistaken for depression.

Early onset-dementia typically starts in the 40s or 50s and can be mistaken for depression.

Loss of pleasure is a key sign of early-onset dementia, research finds.

Early-onset dementia is relatively rare, affecting around 10 percent of the total number of people who get the disease.

It typically starts in the 40s or 50s and can be mistaken for depression.

Early onset-dementia, though, is not about negative emotions, which characterise depression.

Instead, it is lacking the ability to appreciate positive experiences, like a good meal.

The inability to experience pleasure is technically known as anhedonia.

It is caused by degeneration in parts of the brain where rewards and pleasure are processed.

Research has revealed that people with frontotemporal dementia — a term that encompasses various types of early-onset dementia — have smaller frontal and striatal regions of the brain.

Other common signs of early-onset dementia include problems with language, apathy, decreased self-awareness, poor personal hygiene and even stealing and swearing.

Professor Muireann Irish, study co-author, said:

“Much of human experience is motivated by the drive to experience pleasure but we often take this capacity for granted.

But consider what it might be like to lose the capacity to enjoy the simple pleasures of life – this has stark implications for the wellbeing of people affected by these neurodegenerative disorders.

Our findings also reflect the workings of a complex network of regions in the brain, signaling potential treatments.

Future studies will be essential to address the impact of anhedonia on everyday activities, and to inform the development of targeted interventions to improve quality of life in patients and their families.”

The study compared brain scans of people with frontotemporal dementia with those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, usually starting in the 60s or 70s.

The results showed gray matter deterioration in the pleasure system of the brains of those with frontotemporal dementia, but not in those with Alzheimer’s.

→ Read on: reduce LDL cholesterol to lower risk of early-onset dementia.

The study was published in the journal Brain (Shaw et al., 2021).

The Diet That Cuts The Risk Of Memory Loss

The supplement that may slow brain aging.

The supplement that may slow brain aging.

A diet sufficient in omega-3 fatty acids helps reduce the risk of memory loss, research finds.

People with low levels of fatty acids score worse on tests of memory, attention and problem solving.

People’s brain volume is also affected, said Dr Zaldy S. Tan, the study’s first author:

“People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging.”

The most important omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, known as EPA and DHA.

Even healthy young people can improve their memory by increasing their omega-3 intake, other research finds.

This study, though, included 1,575 older adults who were all free of dementia.

They were given tests of their memory, attention and problem-solving, as well as levels of DHA and EPA in their bloodstream.

The results showed that those in the bottom 25% for fatty acid levels had lower brain volumes and had poorer scores on cognitive tests.

The study was published in the journal Neurology (Tan et al., 2012).

Treating This Mental Illness Reduces Dementia Risk 30% (M)

Getting treatment for this condition may reduce dementia risk by 30 percent.

Getting treatment for this condition may reduce dementia risk by 30 percent.

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This Early Sign Of Dementia Doubles The Risk

Losing this sense is the strongest early sign of dementia.

Losing this sense is the strongest early sign of dementia.

Older people who cannot identify smells like lemons, paint-thinner and roses are at double the risk of developing dementia, new research finds.

Problems with other senses, such as vision, hearing and touch, can also be indicative of dementia.

However, difficulty with smell is the biggest sensory sign of dementia.

Other early signs of dementia include changes in sense of humour, increased apathy, memory problems and being unaware of those memory problems, being unable to understand sarcasm and insomnia.

Dr Willa Brenowitz, the study’s first author, said:

“Sensory impairments could be due to underlying neurodegeneration or the same disease processes as those affecting cognition, such as stroke.

Alternatively, sensory impairments, particularly hearing and vision, may accelerate cognitive decline, either directly impacting cognition or indirectly by increasing social isolation, poor mobility and adverse mental health.”

The study included almost 1,800 people in their 70s who were tracked for up to 10 years.

Around one-in-five developed dementia during that time.

The results showed that people with poor senses were at twice the risk of developing the disease.

While previous research has focused on smell, this study added together the effects of all the senses.

Dr Brenowitz said:

“The olfactory bulb, which is critical for smell, is affected fairly early on in the course of the disease.

It’s thought that smell may be a preclinical indicator of dementia, while hearing and vision may have more of a role in promoting dementia.”

People’s whose sense of smell declined by 10 percent were at a 19 percent greater risk of dementia, the study found.

Declines in hearing touch and vision were linked to a 1-to-3 percent level of increased risk.

Dr Kristine Yaffe, study co-author, said:

“We found that with deteriorating multisensory functioning, the risk of cognitive decline increased in a dose-response manner.

Even mild or moderate sensory impairments across multiple domains were associated with an increased risk of dementia, indicating that people with poor multisensory function are a high-risk population that could be targeted prior to dementia onset for intervention.”

The study was published in the journal  Alzheimer’s and Dementia (Brenowitz et al., 2020).

The Common Drink That Reduces Alzheimer’s Risk

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.

Drinking higher amounts of coffee can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, research suggests.

Coffee was linked to reduced levels of amyloid plaques in the brain — these are thought to be key to Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.

People who drank coffee also had higher levels of cognitive function.

Another recent study found that drinking tea or coffee may reduce the risk of stroke and dementia by around one-third.

Dr Samantha Gardener, the study’s first author, explained:

“We found participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had lower risk of transitioning to mild cognitive impairment—which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease—or developing Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study.”

Drinking coffee could be an easy way to delay Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Gardener said:

“It’s a simple thing that people can change.

It could be particularly useful for people who are at risk of cognitive decline but haven’t developed any symptoms.

We might be able to develop some clear guidelines people can follow in middle age and hopefully it could then have a lasting effect.”

Increase to two cups

The study suggests that for a person drinking one cup of coffee a day, it may be worth increasing to two cups a day.

Dr Gardener said:

“If the average cup of coffee made at home is 240g, increasing to two cups a day could potentially lower cognitive decline by eight percent after 18 months.

It could also see a five percent decrease in amyloid accumulation in the brain over the same time period.”

However, the study wasn’t able to determine the maximum number of cups of coffee that is beneficial or whether caffeination or adding milk make any difference.

Dr Gardener said:

“We need to evaluate whether coffee intake could one day be recommended as a lifestyle factor aimed at delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (Gardener et al., 2021).

The Activity That Reverses Mild Cognitive Impairment (M)

People with mild cognitive impairment may go on to develop dementia, but some people never get worse and others can improve.

People with mild cognitive impairment may go on to develop dementia, but some people never get worse and others can improve.

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2 Personality Traits Linked To Dementia

Many factors can reduce the risk of developing dementia, such as a healthy lifestyle.

Many factors can reduce the risk of developing dementia, such as a healthy lifestyle.

Being calm and mature as an adolescent is linked to a significantly lower risk of dementia decades later, research finds.

However, being neurotic is linked to a higher risk of dementia in later life.

Neuroticism is a personality trait that is strongly linked to anxiety, sadness, irritability and self-consciousness.

Neurotic people experience more social anxiety because social situations can be stressful anyway and the neurotic mind tends to focus on the negative.

A second personality trait linked to an increased risk of dementia is a lack of conscientiousness.

People who lack conscientiousness tend to be inefficient and undisciplined — and they tend not to aim for achievement.

Personality, though, is not destiny, when it comes to dementia — good brain health is about nature and nurture.

Many factors can reduce the risk of developing dementia, such as a healthy lifestyle, including eating properly and getting enough exercise.

Keeping the mind active is also thought to reduce the risk of dementia.

Learning new activities, travel and deepening social relationships may all be beneficial.

The conclusions about personality come from a study including 82,232 high school students who were tracked from 1960 until recently.

They were given personality surveys and tested for any signs of dementia.

The results showed that calm and mature adolescents were significantly less likely to develop dementia over 50 years later.

A global personality factor including calm, maturity, tidiness and social sensitivity was linked to a lower risk of dementia.

The factors found roughly translate to what other studies have found: that high neuroticism and low conscientiousness are linked to dementia risk

The study’s authors write:

“Calm is an indicator of low levels of Big Five neuroticism, many facets of which are pronounced near-term risk factors for dementia in older persons.

Explanations for these associations often involve physiological responses to chronic stress, such as dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, leading to ongoing glucocorticoid activity.”

Being mature reflects conscientiousness, the authors explain:

“Maturity reflects task and goal orientation, reliability, and responsibility, features of the Big Five domain of conscientiousness.

Later-life conscientiousness also appears to be protective against dementia.”

The study was published in the JAMA Psychiatry (Chapman et al., 2019).

The Peanut Butter Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

The peanut butter test for Alzheimer’s requires only a dollop of peanut butter and a ruler.

The peanut butter test for Alzheimer’s requires only a dollop of peanut butter and a ruler.

Using only a ruler and a teaspoon of peanut butter, researchers at the University of Florida are developing a test to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease (Stamps et al, 2013).

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

The test relies on the fact that one of the first areas of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s is the sense of smell.

In the test, a patient blocks their right nostril and a teaspoon of peanut butter is moved upwards towards their nose while they breathe normally.

This is then repeated for the other nostril.

Peanut butter was used because it is a well-known smell in the US, that is both unique, and difficult to mix up with anything else.

Peanut butter test for Alzheimer’s

In the study, people without cognitive problems could smell the peanut butter when it was, on average, 17cm below their left nostrils.

However, those with suspected Alzheimer’s couldn’t smell the peanut butter until it was 5cm away.

This difference in smell was only seen when those with suspected Alzheimer’s breathed through their left nostrils.

Breathing through their right nostrils, they performed the same as the control group.

The reason that it’s the left nostril, rather than the right is:

  • The olfactory network is mostly found in the left half of the brain, and it’s the left hemisphere that often degenerates more than the right in Alzheimer’s.
  • In contrast to other senses, smells detected by the left nostril are mostly processed by the left side of the brain.

Cautions about this study

The test could provide a cheap and reasonably easy addition to other methods of detecting Alzheimer’s, which are often expensive or invasive.

The challenge, however, will be whether it can distinguish between Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, which also cause problems with the sense of smell.

Critics of this study have pointed to the small sample size and the fact that another study on the peanut butter test for Alzheimer’s has failed to find the effect (Doty et al., 2014).

[Note: the test has not been fully investigated and is not designed for home use. Also, it’s normal to have some differences in the sense of smell through each nostril.]

Image credits: University of Florida

These Meats Increase Dementia Risk 44%

Some meats increase dementia risk, others reduce it, new research finds.

Some meats increase dementia risk, others reduce it, new research finds.

A single rasher of bacon each day raises the risk of dementia by 44 percent, a study finds.

In fact, eating just 25g of any processed meat per day was linked to increased risk.

Common processed meats include sausages, corned beef, salami, and dried meat.

Processed meat refers to anything that is not sold fresh, with processing including curing, salting and smoking.

However, not all meat is bad in this context.

People who ate 50g of unprocessed (fresh) red meat per day, including pork, beef or veal, had a 19 percent reduced risk of developing dementia.

Dementia affects up to one in 12 people over 60, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form, accounting for around 60 percent of cases.

Ms Huifeng Zhang, the study’s first author, said:

“Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role.

Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption, to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases.”

The study used data on almost half-a-million people from the UK Biobank.

The Biobank is a long-term project that tracks the well-being of volunteers in the UK, including genetic and health data.

Risk factors for developing dementia include being older, poorer, smoking, and being less physically active.

There are also genetic risk factors.

On top of these, though, eating more processed meat increased the risk of dementia substantially.

Ms Zhang said:

“Further confirmation is needed, but the direction of effect is linked to current healthy eating guidelines suggesting lower intakes of unprocessed red meat could be beneficial for health.”

This study is believed to be the first to link increased dementia risk to specific amounts of processed meats.

Professor Janet Cade, study co-author, said:

“Anything we can do to explore potential risk factors for dementia may help us to reduce rates of this debilitating condition.

This analysis is a first step towards understanding whether what we eat could influence that risk.”

→ Read on: Beat Dementia: 8 Changes Your Brain Will Thank You For

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Zhang et al., 2021).