Brain Food for Mood, Memory, and Cognitive Function (The MIND Diet!)

Learn how to protect you brain as you age with the MIND Diet

In This Article

Could your diet protect your brain as you age? 

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In 2015, researchers at Rush University wanted to see if dietary changes could stave off cognitive decline in the elderly. They combined the Mediterranean diet with the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) into a hybrid diet  called “the MIND diet.”  

Researchers compared all three diets for 4.5 years with 923 adults from 58 to 98 years old. While all three diets decreased risk of age-related cognitive decline, the MIND diet won, reducing risk of cognitive issues by a whopping 35-52%!1 

The MIND diet is mostly plant-based, with small amounts of animal-based saturated fats. Overall, it reduces animal proteins, while increasing antioxidant polyphenol levels found in berries, olive oil, whole grains, and green veggies.  

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The MIND diet suggests three servings of whole grains per day, compared with the Mediterranean diet which suggests only two whole grain servings per day. Contrary to the popular belief that grains and wheat are linked to age-related cognitive decline, the MIND diet delivers greater protection from cognitive decline. It also recommends the highest percentage of grains (compared to the DASH and Mediterranean diets).1 

The study identified foods in both the Mediterranean and DASH diets found to have the most brain-protective properties. They discovered 10 brain-healthy foods and five brain-damaging foods. 

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10 Brain-Healthy MIND Diet Foods1,3 

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  1. Green leafy vegetables: six or more servings per week. 
  2. Other vegetables: Choose another vegetable (mostly non-starchy)  at least one per day. 
  3. Nuts: Try to consume 5 servings per week. 
  4. Berries: two servings of berries per week. The MIND diet emphasized berries over other fruit for brain health. 
  5. Beans: Include beans in at least four meals per week. 
  6. Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil as your main cooking oil. Beware of cheap adulterated brands. 
  7. Fish: Eat fish at least once per week. 
  8. Poultry: Chicken or turkey (not fried) at least twice a week. 
  9. Whole grains: Consume at least three servings of whole grains, including 100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and others per day.  
  10. Wine: No more than one glass per day.

5 Brain-Damaging Foods  

  1. Red meats
  2. Butter + margarine
  3. Cheese
  4. Fast or fried food
  5. Pastries or sweets

These findings are very similar to the diet consumed by ancient cultures around the world, as well as the seasonal Ayurvedic diet I espouse, especially in The 3-Season Diet. 

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Principles of an Ayurvedic Diet 

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  1. Only 10% of the diet is animal protein. 
  2. Add good fats like olive oil to food. Cook with ghee or coconut oil. 
  3. Eat ½ of the plate portion as green vegetables. 
  4. Eat ¼ of the plate portion as starch (including 100% whole grains, root veggies (such as potatoes, carrots, beets).  
  5. Eat ¼ of the plate portion as protein. (nuts, seeds, beans, yogurt, fish, poultry, meats) 
  6. Eat fruit and berries as a snack or for a small breakfast or supper in season. 
  7. No processed food. 
  8. No hidden cooked and processed vegetable oils (soy, sunflower, canola, safflower). 
  9. No added sugars or sweeteners. 
  10. Shop from my summer grocery list and eat more foods in season. 

Finally, here are the MIND diet suggested limitations of how much brain-damaging food you are allowed to eat: 

  1. Under 5 servings of pastries or sweets a week. 
  2. Under 1 serving of fried or fast food a week. 
  3. Under 1 serving of cheese per week. 
  4. Under 4 servings of red meat a week. 
  5. Under 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine per day. 
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The big takeaway in this study is the brain benefits of polyphenol-rich foods. Just eating modest amounts of foods like berries decreased risk of cognitive concerns by 35%-52%.1  

Another study investigating cognitive decline at the UCLA Buck Institute reveals strategies that produce cognitive benefits in 9 out of 10 aged adults.2  

Highlights of the Buck Institute Cognitive Therapy Plan2 

  1. Eliminate simple carbohydrates and sugars. No processed foods. More fresh vegetables, fruits, and no farmed fish. 
  2. Meditate twice a day. 
  3. Sleep 7-8 hours per night.
  4. Supplement your diet with vitamin D3, vitamin B12, fish oil, Coenzyme Q10, and melatonin.
  5. Optimize oral hygiene with tongue scraping, oil pulling, and oral probiotics.
  6. Fast a minimum of 12 hours from supper to breakfast.  
  7. Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes 6 times a week.
  8. Talk to your physician about reinstating bioidentical hormone therapy. 

Aging Healthfully 

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While I do not subscribe to all of these exact recommendations, it is surprising how many of these recommendations match time-tested Ayurvedic principles practiced for thousands of years.  

Once again, we find ancient wisdom proved by modern science. If you want to protect your brain for the long haul, using these guidelines, consider changing your diet and let us know how it goes! 

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References

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086182 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4221920/ 
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mind-diet#section2 

13 thoughts on “Brain Food for Mood, Memory, and Cognitive Function (The MIND Diet!)”

  1. Hi John,
    Have you written anything on bio-identical hormone therapy? I’ve heard and read mixed things elsewhere and wonder for myself. I always value your input and would love to know more of your/Ayurvedic/science based thoughts. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Did they differentiate grass-fed meats, grass-fed butter and raw or naturally fermented cheese? There is such a mixed message out there–especially for those who are not naturally vegetarian. Also, why is ghee better than grass-fed butter?

    Reply
  3. Dr John,

    How would you rate the practice of pranayama as a brain lymph decongester? If so, what pranayama practice would you recommend? My apologies if you discussed this recently and I didn’t catch it.

    Reply
  4. In USA, whole wheat is GMO and loaded massively with pesticides. Supermarket whole bread also contains to many added ingredients, including Iron, which I don’t need. I am rusty enough. Coming to this country, from fresh bread every day, Europe, i thought that I am getting diabetes, because of funny feeling after eating supermarket whole wheat bread.
    It’s time to mention why whole wheat bread is beneficial. YOU NEED FIBERS! Contrary to what fast food industry is telling you otherwise. White bunnies?
    To stop Intrahepatic Circulation of everyday toxins ( reabsorbing toxins thru bile), you need fibers to bind them and escort them timely. So benefits are to bind toxins and shorten transition time of stool.
    Toxins impairs flow of Liver bile and free moving of lymph. Also, to congested lymph will not take drainage from brain glymphatic system ( 3 pounds in year?). I say congested, blocked lymph and Dr Marco Ruggiero from Italy is saying: infections, inflammation in cervical nodes. At least, we are both against grain.
    So, crapy “ God given” bread with synthetic 34 ingredients , without fibers, will give you foggy brain…….. Niacin and other beneficial vitamins and minerals are destroyed in industrial processes, so laboratory cheap made are added. Good booklet about bread additives : Twinkies deconstructed.
    In the past I was reading to many comments from “old ladies”, how fiber is bad for you….. where they are now?

    Reply
  5. Dear Dr Douillard… I am curious that you feel kidney beans are good this time of year. Summer
    Another Ayurvedic Doctor Vasant Lad, says Vata constitution people should rarely eat
    any kind of legumes. Would you mind elaborating. I am getting the impression that in your
    3 Season diet book, that every one eats the same according to the season. Maharashi Ayurved
    says that Vata Pitta constitution people should eat Vata diet all year long. So confusing…who
    does one believe.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine,

      One would eat a combination of diets depending on their body type and the time of year. A vata-pitta person in spring could eat from all three seasonal grocery lists in order to balance their body type and the season. It really depends on where one needs balance and everyone will eat similarly by season but customized for their body type.

      That said, beans of all kinds are spring super foods. Read more on that here.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  6. I don’t understand why ghee is good and butter is bad – especially since milk or cream isn’t on the bad list. Ghee is just milk particles cooked out of butter. What am I missing?

    Reply
    • Just my opinion. Both are good if they are grass feed and not loaded with rBST( growth hormones) and antibiotics and who knows what. Oh yes, protect the capitalistic profit and not consumers agains cancer causing chemicals? Actually mindless consumerism to needs to be tampered down for the sake of globe. Do you know that they used/use heavy metals as catalyst to make margarine from oils?
      I suspect, after testing many, that they use “technology” to speed up process of making ghee. Why not? It’s dollar bills. Saved time. I tested jars with organic ghee and my tongue told me that to many contains to much trans fats.
      Why not, most consumers want to buy new “ extraordinarily health product“, but they don’t know how old traditional food from India taste. Fancy thick glass jars, with hefty price tags. Still asking my self, why good sauerkraut( no sodium benzoate) is more expensive then meat to buy in USA? Because, east Europeans can’t live without that? You know who called Germans in WWII, Krauts? Ghee is simple better flowing thru you body. No milk solids to hamper along the ways. Ghee just love to dissolve toxic deposits in liver. More potent for that matter are C8 MCT and cold shower. MCT coconut extract can cause problem, by dissolving to many toxins, then you need to hit bathroom. To potent. Body is then alarmed and it will try to expel toxins in “short” period of time.
      In cold shower, body think that’s going to freeze, so it’s starting to burn all possible in liver for energy to get body temperature up. Even it will burn toxic fat sludge. That is what give you good feeling afterwards, not some mambo jumbo from doctors for sport medicine explaining to long in fancy videos. Ketones? Ha ha.

      Reply
      • MCT became loaded with HEXANE the solvent to extract from Saturated fats of Palm Oil and some Coconut Oil if any.
        The import of Coconut Oil is almost non existing due to Covid19 & almost 100% of MCT is a ” Snake oil ” blend.
        The more claims it is Hexane free the more it has & it is extremely toxic to Kidneys.
        I was a regular user of MCT, I USED to be & not anymore as the most of MCT / Palm Oil since Covid19 import shortages of Coconut Oil became fake & poison misery blend. Coconut Oil has Saturated fats but not Hexane. Saturated fats in small amounts are much less detrimental to health than Hexane.
        The real MCT is made by fractional distillation of Coconut oil where bottom heavy fraction is saturated fat, just like petroleum condensing towers the Tar is on the bottom. The fractional distillation MCT is IMPOSSIBLE TO BUY.
        It is easy to make knowing chemistry & temperatures of each fraction condensing. It is SLOW & COSTLY that is why the solvent Hexane is used by greedy dishonest manufacturers.
        It’s worth to pay high price for pure fraction of MCT without Palm Oil but greed prevails.
        Coconut oil & Grass fed Butter from New Zealand for bullet proof coffee is the only choice.
        It is not Herzheimer reaction from Candida Toxins killed by Caprilic & Capric acids it is HEXANE & Omega 6 blended into MCT.

        Reply
        • I buy only one MCT C8 brand. No Hexane and it is potent.
          It is solvent from self. Pure C8 will dissolve styrofoam cup. Not Hexane.
          I know that internet is full with crap, and I don’t use popular social media. Even when people are honest, they don’t observe right.
          If you are slow detoxing, problems with MTHFR, Sulfation pathways, lymph stagnation, chemicals, heavy metals, Candida toxins, cosmetics etc, you have then a accumulated toxins in liver, a specially if you are older.
          If you have problems with MCT C8 extract( no Hexane Extracted), and get Herxeimer reaction, you can’t and you shouldn’t blame all MCT C8 on Hexane extraction. I know, this country is extremely disrespectful of traditions, greedy, unregulated and mafia from rest of world is using that happily. Don’t ask medical school doctors about chemicals, heavy metals, parasites, liver, lymph, organic foods, alternative natural remedies. Even to much of alternative medicine is taken over by “war profiteers”. 360 000 basic chemicals ( many secret) is wreaking havoc in this country, and toxic people with to many different symptoms lost their targets long time ago. Heavy metals are stoping cell communications/ functions. WHY you thing, they are using adjuvants/ heavy metals in vaccines so, they are not spreading all over the body and staying in one place, so immune system can find and fight them on one place? Toooo many people can’t connect two dots anymore.
          Observe better. A small help. Watch video of Tom O’Brian : liver, the queen of ol organs. 8 minutes in the video is that Swiss liver spot test ( for congested liver). Congested liver means also stagnant lymph.
          And, please learn more about binders, which absorb heavy metals and chemicals and escort them safely so they aren’t doing damage somewhere else( Herxeimer). Binders are multibillion dollar industry, so it’s war zone.

          Reply
    • Hi Julia,

      It is all about the way it is processed. You can make ghee from unsalted butter and removing the milk proteins which are too large for humans to digest properly. This is why ghee is so much better. Read more about ghee here.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply

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