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How food can help make your brain more resilient: nutrition for dementia prevention

Read to me!

You cannot predict what your future life will be like as you age. But you can take steps now to make yourself more resilient for it.

Resiliency is perhaps one of the most interesting findings of continued research into the MIND way of eating for dementia prevention.

Today, I’ll show you what MIND is all about and how to take steps toward building brain resiliency with food.

What is MIND?

MIND is a pattern of eating, created by researchers, that is associated with a lower risk of dementia.

MIND is an acronym (researchers love acronyms!) that stands for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The name describes two other eating patterns MIND was modelled after.

MIND combines the so-called “Mediterranean Diet” with the DASH eating pattern (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and then sprinkles in some foods other research has shown to be great for dementia prevention.

In short, the MIND pattern of eating encourages these foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables, 6 or more times a week
  • Other vegetables, 1 or more a day
  • Berries, 2 or more times a week
  • Nuts, 5 or more times a week
  • Whole grains, 3 or more servings a day
  • Fish, 1 or more times a week
  • Beans, 4 or more times a week
  • Poultry, 2 or more times a week
  • Olive oil is the primary oil of choice

Can MIND lower my risk of dementia?

Researchers looked at 10 years of data from nearly a thousand people. They had data on what people ate as well as their cognitive function.

What did they find? People who ate closer to the MIND pattern had better cognitive function than those who ate furthest from the MIND pattern. In fact, the cognitive difference was almost like being 7.5 years younger in age.

And you don’t have to follow the MIND recommendations perfectly.

The people whose brains were estimated to be 7.5 years younger didn’t follow the MIND pattern perfectly. Their eating habits matched roughly 60% and up of MIND’s recommendations.

People whose eating habits matched about half of what MIND encourages also had better cognitive function than those whose eating habits matched less.

This shows that any small change you make helps reduce your risk of dementia!

But wait, it gets better…

Another study showed the MIND pattern improved cognitive function in later life, even if the brain had signs of amyloid plaques and tangles. These plaques and tangles are otherwise associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This means the more you work on adding in the foods encouraged by MIND, the more resilient your brain may be!

Key takeaways:

  • Research shows the MIND way of eating helps maintain cognitive function as you age.
  • MIND is not a diet. It’s a pattern of eating. You don’t have to follow it perfectly to get the benefits!
  • Small changes to your diet help with dementia prevention. This helps make your brain more resilient.

What are some small changes I can make this week?

Take a look at the list of foods encouraged by MIND. Are your eating habits close? Or far away?

No matter where you are, is there one food on that list that is easy for you to add in the next couple of days?

Some examples:

  • Green leafy vegetables: You can add kale to a soup or lettuce to a sandwich. You can try bok choy in an omelette or stir fry.
  • Nuts: Have these as a snack, as peanut butter, or added to granola. If you’re allergic, swap these out for seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, or hemp.
  • Whole grains: You can try different whole grains. Add quinoa to salads, farro as a base for stir-fries or veggies bowls, or use buckwheat for porridge.
  • Beans: Look for a can of 6-bean medley at your grocery store. Add some olive oil, pepper, salt, and lemon juice to make a quick bean salad.

Take it one step at a time

I can’t stress this enough. Make changes to your diet one step at a time so that food doesn’t add to your stress! Managing stress is a part of dementia prevention too 😉

Food and nutrition can be overwhelming. Don’t aim for perfection. Choose one small change. Focus on that. Then move on to the next. Your brain will thank you for it 🙂

And if you don’t feel like taking these steps alone, reach out. You can book a call with me to talk about your next steps. I’m happy to help!

In the next post, I’m going to answer a question I often get: “Are there any foods I should avoid to lower my risk of dementia?”

Spoiler, the answer is mostly no. But I’ll give you a different way to look at foods that are deemed “unhealthy.” I’ll also give you some strategies to help you decide what’s best for you.

Best in brain health,

Krystal Merrells

Registered Dietitian

Concussion Warrior

Want to know the link between concussion and dementia? Check out the previous post here: