What to Know About the MIND Diet

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on October 16, 2023
3 min read

The MIND diet is a brain-healthy diet that stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a hybrid of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet, and it focuses on food groups in each diet that can boost your brainpower and protect it from age-related problems like Alzheimer’s disease.

In the MIND diet, the recommended guidelines focus more on plant-based foods that are minimally processed and limits animal-based foods that are high in saturated fats and foods with added sugars. The diet also recommends portion control, but unlike several diets, it doesn’t focus on weight loss.

The MIND diet principles include 10 food groups you should eat and five to limit. Basically, every day, you should eat at least 3 servings of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, 1 to 2 servings of beans, poultry, and fish each week, and daily snacks can include nuts and berries. The diet also emphasizes to mostly choose olive oil as a healthy source of fat to cook your foods.

While you don’t have to completely cut out meats and dairy from your meals, the diet recommends eating them sparingly -- less than four times a week. Instead, the diet recommends substituting it with protein-packed beans and legumes that are important for brain heath.

The foods you should focus on in the MIND diet are:

  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens (at least one serving daily)
  • All other vegetables (2 or more servings per day)
  • Berries (2 or more servings per week)
  • Nuts (5 or more servings per week)
  • Olive oil (daily)
  • Whole grains (3 or more servings per day)
  • Fish/seafood (1 or more servings per week). Chose fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
  • Beans (4 or more servings per week)
  • Poultry (2 or more servings per week)
  • Wine (one glass per day, but you can skip it)

Foods to avoid or limit include:

  • Butter/margarine
  • Cheese
  • Red meat
  • Fried foods
  • Sweets and pastries

Food groups recommended in the MIND diet are a rich source of fiber and packed with several dietary nutrients that have been found to boost brain health. They include:

  • Vitamin E
  • Folate
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Carotenoids
  • Flavonoids

Research shows that the MIND diet can improve brain health and lower your odds of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other forms of age-related cognitive decline. In fact, studies show that eating certain foods and avoiding unhealthy ones can slow brain aging by 7.5 years.

Currently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and it’s estimated to affect over 5 million Americans. The number is projected to jump to more than 7 million by 2025.

One study that looked at 1,300 older adults who followed the MIND diet found that in those who followed it strictly, the diet lowered their chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 53%. Those who moderately followed it still saw their odds drop by 35%.

Whether you have family history of Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems, the MIND diet is a good, healthy diet that has shown promising results for overall brain health.

While there needs to be more research on the overall benefits of the MIND diet, evidence so far shows it’s a good diet strategy for your long-term health. It’s relatively easy to follow and to build on recipes even if you’re eating out. This is because the diet mostly focuses on wholesome foods and you don’t have to track your daily calorie intake.

Before you start the MIND diet or any other diet, talk to your doctor and ask if it’s the right fit for your health. If you’re not sure how to get started, ask a licensed nutritionist or a dietitian. They may help you come with up a meal plan that works best for you.