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MIND Diet: Benefits, Foods To Eat And Meal Plan

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet, or more commonly, the MIND diet, is the combination of the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. The fairly new diet focuses on the top brain-healthy foods emphasized by both the Mediterranean and DASH diets - leafy greens and other vegetables, berries, nuts and beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine [1] .

Developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist and her team at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the MIND diet is gaining popularity due to the positive impact it has on improving one's cognitive function and reducing the risks of Alzheimer's disease [2] .

The MIND diet was developed with the aim of reducing dementia and the decline in brain health that often occurs as people get older. By combining the aspects of both the diet types, the MIND diet is asserted to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, diabetes and several other diseases [3] . Although both the diets separately have various health benefits for the human body, it did not have any significant impact on the cognitive functioning of individuals.

Therefore, researchers came together with the intention of creating a diet specifically to help improve brain function and prevent dementia. With both of the diet plans being based on whole foods, the MIND diet has low sodium, added sugar, and refined grains content. It is also low in highly processed foods, including sugary beverages, fast foods, and fried foods [4] .

The MIND diet does not possess any daily calorie limit or goal and does not require consuming meals on specific timings. The diet possesses a sense of freedom, which the individual can enjoy while improving their physical and mental health [5] , [6] . One of the best parts about the MIND diet is that it does not require you to completely give up your snacking habits or your favourite type of foods as the diet is encompassed of almost all varieties of foods. The diet focuses on increasing one's consumption of food that can improve the cognitive function and reduce the intake of food that can hamper your brain's performance and health.

The healthy diet plan encourages people to consume more of natural foods and limiting their intake of red meat and unhealthy fats [3] . Religiously following the diet is one of the easiest ways to keep your brain young and healthy and not be affected by the signs and symptoms of ageing and other factors.

Foods To Eat

The types of food encouraged by the MIND diet are as follows [7] :

Green, leafy vegetables: Such as kale, broccoli, spinach, or collards. Try to incorporate six or more servings per week.

Other vegetables: Chose non-starchy vegetables, due to the high nutritional value and low calories. At least one serving per day.

Berries: Include berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries (antioxidants). Eat berries at least twice a week.

Nuts: The diet does not specify the type of nuts to be consumed; so feel free to include the different varieties of nuts into your diet. Try to have five servings of nuts or more each week.

Whole grains: Incorporate whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread. Have at least three servings daily.

Beans: Include all the varieties of beans such as lentils, soybeans, mung beans etc. Have beans at least four times every week.

Poultry: Eat chicken at least twice a week. You can have turkey also. But, fried chicken is not encouraged on the MIND diet.

Fish: Choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel; due to the presence of high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat fish at least once a week.

Wine: Drink red wine as its red wine compound resveratrol help protect your brain against Alzheimer's disease. Have no more than one glass daily.

Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.

Foods To Avoid

The MIND diet requires reducing and limiting the consumption of the following foods [7] :

Cheese: Limit your cheese consumption to three-four times a month.

Butter and margarine: Use olive oil instead of butter while cooking. Try to eat less than 1 tablespoon daily.

Fried foods: Limit your consumption to three-four times a month.

Pastries and sweets: Limit the consumption to no more than four times a week. Avoid processed foods and desserts like ice creams, brownies, cookies, doughnuts, candy etc.

Red meat: Reduce your consumption of beef, pork, lamb and products made from these meats. And limit your consumption to no more than three servings each week.

Benefits Of The MIND Diet

Since its début in 2015, the diet plan has been very successful in slowing down cognitive decline in healthy older adults. A recent study conducted on the impact of the MIND diet pointed out that individuals who strictly follow the diet functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than those who did not follow it [8] .

Let's take a look into the amazing health benefits possessed by the MIND diet apart from its ability to reduce cognitive function decline [9] , [10] , [11] , [12] .

1. Prevents cognitive decline

While discussing the benefits possessed by the MIND diet, it is necessary to point out the impact it has in preventing cognitive decline and reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. Various studies have been conducted on exploring the impact of the MIND diet and one's cognition and have pointed out that it can improve brain function and performance.

2. Enhances cognitive function

As aforementioned, the MIND diet focuses on one's cognitive skills and not only does it prevent the decline but also help enhance one's cognitive function. Studies revealed that individuals who follow the MIND diet have better memory and perceptual speed in comparison to others.

With an abundance of green leafy vegetables incorporated in the diet, the ample amount of vitamin E, folate, carotenoids and flavonoids help improve the functioning of your brain. Likewise, the berries in the diet aid in improving memory and learning abilities due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Aids weight loss

One of the other major benefits of the MIND diet is that it supports healthy weight loss and management. As the diet encourages the consumption of more whole, fresh and unprocessed foods such as whole grains, beans, fish, greens, and olive oil; it eliminates the build-up of unwanted fat. Following a healthy diet also contribute towards healthy weight loss as the calorie intake is limited.

The MIND diet is asserted to contribute towards fat burning and increased metabolism; another factor pointing towards healthy weight loss.

4. Balances cholesterol levels

By limiting your consumption of unhealthy fats, MIND diet can limit the build-up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The build-up can cause damage to your arteries and increase the bad cholesterol levels. By replacing unhealthy options with healthier ones (olive oil instead of butter), the diet help keep your cholesterol levels under control [13] .

5. Fights cancer

Packed with plenty of vegetables and legumes, berries, unsaturated fats like olive oil, fatty fish, and limited amounts of meat, the MIND diet is asserted to be beneficial in fighting certain types of cancer. Studies point out that the diet prescribed by oncologists to individuals fighting cancer has very close similarities to that of the MIND diet.

6. Prevents diabetes

An amalgam of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, the MIND diet is a definite preventive act against diabetes. It helps prevent high blood sugar or insulin resistance, thereby limiting the risks of developing diabetes.

7. Improves mental health

Nutrition is essential for maintaining a balanced mood and ensuring a lasting feeling of wellness. The MIND diet can help develop, manage and prevent the onset of various mental health problems, including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety [14] .

8. Protects heart

Rich in nutrition and low in fat and calories, the MIND diet is a key towards improving your heart health and reducing the risks of heart disease. As the diet does not allow the accumulation of fat and unhealthy cholesterol, your heart can function well without any issues.

9. Reduces inflammation

The varieties of food incorporated in the MIND diet help control and reduce inflammation. By burning up the excess fat and removing the unwanted toxins from your body, the diet aids in reducing the inflammation caused by environmental toxins, stress and poor gut function [15] .

10. Promotes pain management

The MIND diet is beneficial for your body in so many different ways and one of it is the diet's ability to encourage healthy pain management. The diet functions by reducing the inflammation levels, which will directly cause the pain to reduce. Apart from this, the MIND diet is a good source of serotonin which helps increase your pain threshold [16] .

Sample 7-Day MIND Diet Meal Plan

In comparison to the different types of diet plans in existence, creating a MIND diet plan is not arduous. Take a look into the sample meal plan provided below [17] .

1st day - Monday

Breakfast: Greek yoghurt with strawberries, topped with sliced almonds.

Lunch: Mediterranean salad with olive-oil-based dressing, grilled chicken, whole-wheat bread.

Dinner: Brown rice with black beans, boiled vegetables and grilled chicken.

2nd day- Tuesday

Breakfast: Wheat toast with scrambled eggs.

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich with boiled carrots.

Dinner: Grilled salmon, side salad with olive-oil-based dressing, brown rice.

3rd day - Wednesday

Breakfast: Oatmeal with strawberries and hard-boiled eggs.

Lunch: Vegetable salad with black beans, red onion, corn and grilled chicken.

Dinner: Chicken and vegetable stir-fry and brown rice.

4th day - Thursday

Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana, with wheat toast.

Lunch: Baked fish (of your choice) and boiled vegetables.

Dinner: Whole-wheat pasta with meatballs and salad.

5th day - Friday

Breakfast: Wheat toast with scrambled eggs.

Lunch: Baked chicken and vegetable salad or stir-fry.

Dinner: Baked or oven roasted potato with fish.

6th day - Saturday

Breakfast: Oats with berries.

Lunch: Brown rice with baked fish and beans.

Dinner: Vegetable salsa with chicken and whole-wheat pita.

7th day - Sunday

Breakfast: Sliced apple with peanut butter and whole-wheat bread.

Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich on wheat bread, with carrots.

Dinner: Curry chicken, brown rice and lentils.

Healthy MIND Diet Recipes

1. Chocolate blueberry smoothie

Ingredients [18]

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup milk (of your choice)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 dash ground cinnamon
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup


  • Blend all ingredients together until smooth.
  • Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass for a smoother texture.
  • Garnish with a few whole blueberries, and serve immediately.

2. No-sugar sesame cookies


  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup date paste
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds


  • Preheat oven to 350 °C.
  • Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the date paste, tahini, and olive oil.
  • Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones.
  • Put the dough in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Roll the dough into small balls.
  • Roll each ball into a bowl of sesame seeds.
  • Press the ball onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake cookies for 10 minutes.

Tips For Following The MIND Diet

Now that we have perused the different aspects of the diet, such as the types of food to eat and avoid and its benefits, let's take a look into some suggestions that will help you follow the MIND diet [19] , [20] .

  • Choose bread, cereals, and pasta that are made with whole grains.
  • Include a few meatless entrées each week such as lentil soup.
  • Choose fish, skinless poultry, or beans as the primary source of protein.
  • Keep frozen berries on hand.
  • Keep unsalted nuts with you, so that you may snack on it.
  • Eat a green salad most days of the week.

Side Effects Of MIND Diet

Consuming too much of brown rice or nuts can prevent successful weight loss.

Eating too much fish poses the risk of pollutants and toxin such as mercury and plastic residues entering your body [21] .

MIND Diet Vs Other Diets

MIND diet vs Mediterranean diet: The MIND diet is borrowed from the Mediterranean diet. The 'M' in MIND Diet stands for the Mediterranean. The MIND diet is more detail-oriented that the Mediterranean diet and favours specific types of fruits and vegetables over others.

The Mediterranean diet can be described as being less restrictive and focuses on holistic food patterns and lifestyle [22] . It does not just focus on the types of food consumed but also other factors such as the way of eating, physical activities, bodily response to food etc.

MIND diet vs DASH diet: Similar to that of the Mediterranean diet's involvement in the MIND diet, the DASH diet is a contributor to the MIND diet. The MIND diet follows the same principles of the DASH diet but with a few simple additions [23] . In comparison to the DASH diet, the MIND diet is freer and the people who follow it has a wider range of options to chose from.

DASH diet focuses on the portion size, eating a variety of foods and getting the right amount of nutrients and is centralised on lowering your blood pressure. Whereas MIND diet focuses on cognitive decline and repair [24] .

MIND diet vs Paleo diet: In comparison to the MIND diet, Paleo diet is less healthy. The MIND diet aims at lifelong health with its rich nutritional content [25] . The protein-related modification in the Paleo diet, that is, the reduction of protein intake poses as a bit of a drawback.

MIND diet vs Keto diet: The ketogenic diet is extremely low in carbohydrates, which is one of the major drawbacks of it. Keto diet encourages only 20 per carbohydrate consumption per day, which is less than an apple. Although it has several benefits accorded to it, the MIND diet is increasingly better when compared to that of the Keto diet [26] .

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