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In response to a disproportionate rise in cognitive decline in the elderly, researchers at Rush University combined the Mediterranean diet with the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) into a hybrid diet. They called it “The MIND diet.”
The researchers compared all three diets for 4.5 years with 923 adults ranging from 58 to 98 years old. While all three diets helped to decrease the risk of age-related cognitive decline, the MIND diet reduced their risk of cognitive issues by 35-52% depending on the level of compliance. (1)
The MIND diet focuses on a plant-based diet with small amounts of animal-based saturated fats, but overall reducing animal proteins, while increasing the antioxidant polyphenol levels that are found in berries, olive oil and green veggies.
The study also identified the foods in both the Mediterranean and DASH diets that have been found to have the most brain-protective properties. They came up with 10 brain-healthy foods and 5 brain-damaging foods.
10 Brain-Healthy Foods
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Wine in moderation
The 5 Brain-Damaging Foods
- Red meats
- Butter and margarine
- Fast or fried food
- Pastries or sweets
These recommendations are very similar to the diet consumed by the centenarian cultures around the world, as well as the seasonal Ayurvedic diet I suggest. Here are the dietary suggestions based on my book, The 3-Season Diet, and my free monthly eating guide, The 3-Season Diet Challenge:
- Only 10% of the diet as animal protein (meat).
- Add good fats like olive oil to food and cook with ghee or coconut oil.
- Eat ½ of the plate portion as green vegetables.
- Eat ¼ of the plate portion as starch (including whole grains, root veggies such as potatoes, carrots, beets and fruit and berries.
- Eat ¼ of the plate portion as protein. (Limit animal protein to 10%)
- No processed food and no hidden cooked oils.
- No added sugars or sweeteners.
- Shop from my free Seasonal Grocery Lists and give yourself permission to eat more of the foods that are in season.
Finally, here are the MIND diet suggested limitations of how much brain-damaging food you are allowed to eat:
- Under 5 servings of pastries or sweets a week.
- Under 1 serving of fried or fast food a week.
- Under 1 serving of cheese per week.
- Under 4 servings of red meat a week.
- Under 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine per day.
The big takeaway in this study was the brain benefits of the polyphenol-rich foods. Just eating modest amounts of these foods, such as berries, decreased risk of cognitive concerns by 35%. (1)
Another study investigating cognitive decline at the UCLA Buck Institute revealed strategies that showed significant cognitive benefits in 9 out of 10 aged adults. (2) Here are the highlights of the Buck Institute Cognitive Therapy Plan:
- Eliminate simple carbohydrates and sugars. No processed foods and more fresh vegetables, fruits and no farmed fish.
- Meditate twice a day. >>> See my Free Meditation Training here
- Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Trouble sleeping? See my article, “Sleep Solutions for your Body Type.”
- Take these supplements:
- Optimize oral hygiene.
- Fasting a minimum of 12 hours from supper to breakfast.
- Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes 6 times a week. >>> Learn more here
- Re-instate bio-identical hormone therapy if it has been discontinued.
While I do not subscribe to all of these exact recommendations, like hormone therapy, it is surprising how many of these recommendations match time-tested Ayurvedic principles that have been practiced for thousands of years. Once again, we find ancient wisdom being proved by modern science.