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Considering the MIND Diet

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Many of us have been affected in some way by Alzheimer’s Disease. My uncle had it; my father-in-law has suffered with it for the past 8 years. 

We all worry to some degree – will I have it? There is so much unknown. One thing that seems to be clear is that a healthy diet makes a difference. But just what does that healthy diet look like?

I’ve been fascinated with research over the past few years on the MIND diet. It stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

A study at Rush University found people who followed the diet closely had a 53 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those who followed it moderately had a 35 percent risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The findings were published in the March 2017 Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. 

So how does it work? The diet puts together the best from the Mediterranean diet – more fish, healthy fats, vegetables and whole grains -- and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. The DASH diet has been found to reduce the risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke. The Mediterranean has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Put them together and research finds they help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.

There’s another advantage as well -- researchers found the MIND diet is easier to follow that the Mediterranean, which requires daily fish consumption and multiple servings of fruits and vegetables.

A typical day’s intake on the MIND diet might include three servings of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, wheat bread, etc.), a salad and another vegetable, a glass of wine, nuts for a snack, blueberries or strawberries, chicken or fish and beans every other day. Foods like butter and cheese, red meat, pastries, sweets and fried or processed foods are avoided.

Overall, the MIND diet emphasizes natural plant-based foods and limited intakes of animal foods and saturated fats. However, it specifies adding berries and green leafy vegetables. 

Rush researchers looked at food intake data from 900 older Americans already participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which began in 1997. Over a five-year period, the team collected data on incidences of Alzheimer’s. The team found that those who followed the MIND Diet lowered their Alzheimer’s risk by 53 percent while those who followed the Mediterranean diet lowered their risk by 54 percent and those who followed the DASH diet lowered their risk by 39 percent. 

However, even when the MIND diet was only moderately followed, it still reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by 35 percent. Moderate adherence to the Mediterranean and Dash had only negligible protective benefits, according to study authors.

Recipe

Spinach Strawberry Salad

We know many factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle, may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Following the MIND diet just may help reduce risks. Here’s a recipe that fits into the MIND diet plan.

INGREDIENTS

Easy Herb Vinaigrette:

  • 9 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons wildflower honey
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Salad:

  • 1 ½ cups quartered strawberries
  • ¼ cup Easy Herb Vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 (6 ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
DIRECTIONS

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; slowly whisk in oil until combined. Stir in basil and chives. Combine strawberries, ¼ cup vinaigrette, mint and spinach in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with almonds and pepper; serve immediately. Store remaining vinaigrette, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Note: Can also add avocado, goat cheese or grilled chicken. Serves 4 (about 2 cups each).

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