Changing your diet could reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by as much as 53%, according to a recent study from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. MIND diet "moderately well" were able to reduce their risk of Alzheimer's by a third.
While genetics and other lifestyle habits such as smoking and exercise play a role, they suggest that changing your diet could slow the rate of cognitive decline regardless of other risk factors.
Published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, the study followed the health of 960 people with an average age of over 80. Participants completed food questionnaires and brain function tests each year for an average of five years. Researchers found that people whose followed the MIND diet recommendations had brains 7.5 years younger than those in the study who didn't.
Based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet – both of which promote good heart health – the MIND diet recommends eating food from 10 healthy food groups – and avoiding foods from five unhealthy ones.
The healthy food groups
• Green leafy vegetables
• Other vegetables
• Whole grains
• Olive oil
The unhealthy food groups
• Red meat
• Butter/stick margarine
• Fried/fast food
How much and how often?
For maximum benefits, you should eat three servings of whole grains, a salad and one other vegetable every day. Whole grains include wholewheat bread and pasta, brown rice, barley, oats, soba noodles and quinoa. The MIND diet also recommends having ONE small glass of wine every day.
Five times a week: Nuts
If you fancy a snack, have a small handful of nuts. Packed with healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants, nuts have been shown to help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MIND diet recommends eating nuts at least five times a week.
Three times a week: Beans
You should eat at least one servings of beans (such as butterbeans, kidney beans or chickpeas) every other day. Try adding to your normal meals, such as casseroles, soups, salads, wraps, or curries.
Twice a week: Berries
Berries are the only fruit specifically recommended in the MIND diet. Studies suggest that blueberries are one of the most potent foods when it comes to protecting brain health – and the MIND diet suggests eating them at least twice a week. If you get tired of blueberries, have a bowl of strawberries, which have also been shown to have a positive effect on cognitive function.
Twice a week: Chicken
While the MIND diet places emphasis on eating vegetables, you can eat chicken twice a week.
Once a week: Fish
Unlike the Mediterranean diet, which recommends eating fish most days of the week, the MIND diet says fish once a week is enough. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, are best thanks to their brain-protecting, high omega-3 content.
Foods to avoid
You don't have to eliminate the foods on the "unhealthy food" list entirely – but you do need to limit your intake in order to benefit. For example, you should eat no more than one tablespoon of butter per day and you should have cheese no more than once a week. Fried food or fast food should be eaten no more than once per week - and cut back on sugar and red meat as much as possible.
You can eat other things too!
You might have noticed that the MIND diet doesn't recommend eating eggs, fruit (other than berries) or yogurt. While these are all healthy foods, they haven't been mentioned because there is no scientific evidence linking them to improved brain health.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't eat them – it just means that they won't have the same Alzheimer's protecting benefits of other foods on the MIND diet.
Whether you want to lose weight or improve your diet, here's our pick of the 20 best kitchen appliances and gadgets that will help you eat well every day.