To be honest, I’m not a big follower of diets; I kind of consider them to be fads. In most pop-culture diets, the end goal is to lose weight, either quickly, permanently or both. And, I’ve never really been one to feel compelled to go on a “diet” in the popular sense of the word. I don’t like restriction. I don’t like food shaming. And I don’t like skipping entire sections of vitamins and nutrients that I know are good for my body for the sake of slimming down a size.
Candidly speaking, I was considered overweight at one time in my life and I was uncomfortable with the way that I looked and felt at that time. I was aware, however, that it was due to treating my body terribly through food. I ate fast food every day and hardly ever ate any “real” food, as in, a stem of broccoli or chicken breast. I mostly ate from-the-box dried goods such as ramen, macaroni and cheese or pre-packaged baked crackers when I ate from my cabinets and I rarely felt full from these foods. My idea of healthy cooking in my early twenties was thawing out a pre-cooked pasta meal that took 15 minutes to heat up in the skillet that would contain over half of my daily value of sodium, with little to no nutritional content added. My habits didn’t come from a vacuum. At the time, convenience was my number one priority and I was also not very well-educated on how food fueled my body. So, my unintentional neglect started to show up in extra fat and bloating around my belly and under my chin.
So, I decided to get wise. I did not know how to make appropriate food choices prior to that point, but as an adult, I had the choice to learn how. It was up to me to spot my own deficit and to make an opportunity to change. I signed up for a basic nutrition class during my last semester of Undergrad out of pure curiosity. And, it completely changed my world. I started to think about food as a form of prevention and it became the first of many steps in self-care towards loving and respecting my body. With every little healthy change that I made, I was choosing to invest in the body that I’d been granted in this lifetime. I knew that if I truly wanted to carry out some of the projects and ideas that had been swimming around in my head, I would need a healthy body and brain to create and execute them.
Now, I have many friends who invest in different routes of health. Some have adopted a ketogenic diet; Some eat a more vegan-based diet. Some grow their own food in community gardens and some are just happy with minor changes like eliminating fast food or soda. I’ve hovered around a lean protein and vegetable based diet, opting to derive fuel from healthy fats like those from oils, nuts, coconut and avocado. I’ve also opted to consume most of my carbohydrates from vegetables and rice, and consuming only small amounts of occasional red meat, dairy and starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, breads and pastas. I mainly watch my sodium and sugar intake to make sure that I’m eating amounts in line with Recommended Daily Values. And, I’ve noticed since doing so, I really like the clarity it has brought to my thoughts and energy levels.
It is no secret that I prioritize brain health and often find myself deep into the world of scientific research articles throughout the day. I often read about Alzheimer’s disease, which you may know if you read my weekly Science Sunday roundup. The body of researched published so far in 2015 gives me the hope that we are well on our way to better prevention and symptom management treatments. One of the more recent March studies I’ve read in the journal Brain cited that the amyloid plaques found to be at the heart of Alzheimer’s disease can be found in young people as early as in their 20’s and continue to build up over the lifespan. When I read this, it drove it home to me that Alzheimer’s prevention begins now. But I was at a loss of what to do.
Enter another recent study about the new MIND diet.
The MIND diet
The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It is a hybrid diet, taking beneficial components from the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet (which promotes cardiovascular health) to aid in preventing dementia.
A recent study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association reports that a group of scientists, part of the Rush Memory and Aging project, studied the effects of the MIND diet amongst a pool of 923 seniors, aged 58-98 years old, in the Chicago area. Over the average follow-up period of 4.5 years, those who followed this diet strictly showed a 53% reduction of Alzheimer’s risk. And, even those found to follow the diet moderately saw a 36% reduction of Alzheimer’s risk. To read more about the comparisons between the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and MIND diets found in the study, or to find out more about the research itself, follow the link here.
So, just what is required in the MIND diet?
The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including:
Ten brain-healthy food groups:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
Five unhealthy groups are:
- Red meats
- Butter and stick margarine (less than 1 tbsp per day)
- Cheese (less that 1 serving per week)
- Pastries and sweets
- Fried or fast food (less than 1 serving per week)
More specific diet ratio details include:
Poultry and berries (blueberries + strawberries): 2x per week
Fish: at least 1x per week
Nuts: Most days per week for snacking
Beans: 3-4x per week (“every other day or so”)
Everyday: 3 servings of whole grains, a salad, one additional vegetable, and a glass of wine
(Taken from the Rush Memory & Aging Project website press release)
One of the things that struck me most about this diet is how much more practical the MIND diet was than the Mediterranean diet which called for a high consumption of fish – a challenge to find at grocery stores in large quantities and a food item that can also become quite pricey depending upon quality. When assessing my eating habits at home already, the MIND diet seems like an obvious and very easy set of guidelines to adopt to my current cooking style. My top challenge will be with the butter but I think I can be compelled to drop the butter after seeing this study’s initial findings on Alzheimer’s risk prevention. I will, of course, look to follow up on future studies that confirm or disconfirm the findings of this dietary style.
Introducing “MIND-full” Monday Meals!
So, I have decided that I am going to challenge myself to make the MIND diet a part of my household and to show you just how inexpensive and easy some of the meals are to make that follow the guidelines above. I am going to be turning my regular “Monday Musings” recipes into “MIND-full Mondays” so that you can pick from several meals recipes that are convenient, healthy and tasty for your family.
My first installment of “MIND-full Monday” will begin April 6th and will feature a Rosemary Salmon with Brown Rice Khichri (brown rice, lentils, peas, spices) that takes a grand total of 30-minutes to make and cost me just under $12.00 CAD including HST.
Disclaimer: It goes without saying that I am not a licensed nutritionist, nor can I guarantee a reduction in Alzheimer’s risk if you or a loved one follows my recipes or meal ideas. I simply like to cook and would like to adopt the MIND diet’s guidelines in the meals that I create at home. It is important that before you begin any specific dietary change that you discuss it with your doctor in order to make sure that it meets your own specific dietary needs. I will continue to follow future research of Dr. Morris’ MIND diet and its effects on Alzheimer’s risk. At this time, I see little risk, but great potential benefit, in incorporating its requirements into my own family dietary plan.
Are you interested in the MIND diet or would you like to submit a MIND diet recipe to be featured on MIND-full Mondays? Give me a shout-out in the comments below!