diet-to-save-your-memoryOne of the primary fears of older people and caretakers is dementia. For anyone who has already watched a loved one slowly and painfully lose the battle against Alzheimer’s, this worry is even more acute. There isn’t as much good news as everyone would like, but two important studies have shown how important the correct diet can be in saving your memory.

Great Food for Your Brain

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet is a combination of two heart-healthy diets, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While either diet offers a number of health benefits, a special combination of the two appears to be particularly useful in fighting late-onset Alzheimer’s, the form of the disease seen most frequently.

Special diets can be difficult for the cook who may need to prepare two separate meals. One of the great attributes of the delicious MIND diet is that it’s good for everyone. Many treasured family recipes can be adapted by substituting one ingredient for another (olive oil instead of butter, for example).

Start the MIND Diet at Any Age

Unlike some diets, the MIND diet is helpful even if you don’t follow it as rigorously as you should. Starting early and not “cheating” provides the most benefits for delaying dementia, but even a less than perfect adherence to the MIND diet will pay dividends over time.

The participants in the large national Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, had a mean age of 67.8 years. The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study followed 7,000 older women for 10 years.

The results from both studies were enlightening and produced similar results.

What is the MIND Diet?

  • Closely following the MIND diet resulted in a 34%-35% reduction in the likelihood of Alzheimer’s.
  • Moderately following the MIND diet conferred an 18-24% reduction in the likelihood of Alzheimer’s.

The MIND diet isn’t very complicated and doesn’t require you to buy exotic foods. The guidelines are broad enough to accommodate most tastes. A few recipe ideas to spark your creativity can be found here.

Foods to include:

Foods to avoid:

  • Green leafy vegetables: 6 servings per week
  • Other vegetables: 1 or more servings per day
  • Nuts: 5 servings per week
  • Berries (especially blueberries and strawberries): 2 servings per week
  • Beans: 3 servings per week
  • Whole grains: At least 3 servings per day
  • Fish: 1 serving per week
  • Poultry: 2 servings a week
  • Olive oil: Use as your primary cooking/salad oil
  • Wine: 1 glass per day

Why the MIND Diet Works

  • Red meat: Eat less than 4 servings per week
  • Butter or margarine: No more than 1 tablespoon per day
  • Cheese: Less than 1 serving per week
  • Pies, cakes and other sweets: Fewer than 5 servings per week
  • Fast or fried food: Fewer than 1 serving per week

Vitamins C and E: The MIND diet is high in vitamins C and E, which help protect the brain. Plant-based foods contain these and other vitamins which help to preserve memory and cognitive skills. Vitamins C and E also contain antioxidants which offer protection from free radical damage. While these vitamins are helpful individually, a John Hopkins study found C and E protected the brain when used together, lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Vitamin C also helps to remove metals such as aluminum, long believed to contribute to cognitive impairment.

Vitamins B6, B12 and Folic Acid: Green leafy vegetables are abundant in these nutrients which help to improve the brain’s function and reduce brain atrophy and shrinkage.

Vitamin K: Also found primarily in green veggies, it is believed Vitamin K helps to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Berries: Berries are the only fruits that have been shown to improve memory and decrease the loss of neurons. Berries also have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which tackle two of the suspected causes of Alzheimer’s.

The prevention and delay of dementia’s onset with the MIND diet can be significant. When it’s time for professional assistance, Maplewood of Sauk Prairie understands the importance of family and your loved one’s unique needs. For over 40 years, they have been providing high quality care to residents of Sauk City, WI and the surrounding region.

About Paul Fiscus

Paul Fiscus is the director of Maplewood of Sauk Prairie.