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Smart food choices can keep your brain sharp. “Research has shown for years that what we eat can impact brain function,” says Stephen Gemmell, Ph.D., director of the Washington Regional Memory Disorders Clinic. Eating healthful foods found on the MIND diet, he says, may lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.

Dr. Gemmell describes the MIND diet as a “hybrid” eating plan. “It’s a combination of both the Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy DASH diet,” he says. In fact, MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

“The research has shown time and time again that those two diets are not only healthy for us overall but are also brain-healthy. Researchers took the portions of those diets that have been found to be most helpful for brain function, put them together, and then studied them — which ultimately became the MIND diet.”

MIND diet recommendations include:

  • Whole grain foods — three servings a day
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables at least once a day
  • At least one other vegetable each day
  • Berries at least twice a week
  • At least one ounce of nuts each day; choose unsalted, dry-roasted or raw
  • Bean or legumes at least every other day
  • Poultry at least twice a week
  • Fish at least once a week
  • Limit fast food, fried food and cheese to no more than once a week.
  • Limit butter or margarine to one tablespoon a day; choose olive oil instead.
  • Limit pastries and sweets to less than five times a week.

The MIND diet also includes a five-ounce glass of red wine each day. For non-drinkers, a glass of purple grape juice provides many of the same health benefits.

“People who follow the MIND diet have been found to have a significant reduction in developing Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Gemmell says. “One of the earlier studies shows that people who followed the MIND diet had a 53% reduced risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Equally impressive is that people who followed it even modestly had a 35% reduction in developing Alzheimer’s disease. So, the research is out there.”

The eating plan is uncomplicated and accessible for most people, Dr. Gemmell says. “The beauty of the MIND diet is that it’s easy to follow. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on supplements and powders and buy things on TV that you see. These are basic things that you can get at the grocery store, and they are proven to work. The key is just to get people to incorporate them into their lives.”

Click here for a printable MIND diet guide you can use to plan your meals.