Developed by American epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is designed to both prevent cognitive decline, especially age-related memory problems, and optimise brain performance more generally (1).
It combines the best elements of two diets widely-acclaimed by the scientific community: the DASH diet (recommended for lowering high blood pressure and losing weight), and the Mediterranean diet (which protects the heart and blood vessels). With the correct nutrition and blood supply, the brain can function at full capacity.
Created in opposition to restrictive diets (which can be bad for our health), the MIND diet advocates the long-term adoption of a range of good nutritional habits for taking care of the brain. It reflects all the key principles of a balanced diet, and thus prevents any deficiencies.
Simply put, the MIND diet emphasises the consumption of raw ingredients, minimal salt (as it adversely affects blood pressure) and minimal saturated fats (which in excess, promote cardiovascular disease) (2-3). Thus, processed, fried and ‘fast-foods’ are all off-limits, and intake of butter, cheese and processed meats should be restricted.
Did you know the brain is one of the ‘fattiest’ organs in the body? Fats (or lipids) play a major structural role in the brain, in that they constitute the myelin sheath, the protective layer around nerve cells. A good intake of omega-3s, which the body is unable to make, is therefore essential (4).
Found in nut and rapeseed oils, as well as linseeds and chia seeds, these essential fatty acids are also major components of seafood in the form of DHA and EPA. These two omega-3s also help to maintain normal blood pressure. Opt for smaller fish (sardines, herrings, mackerel…) as they accumulate fewer brain-harmful heavy metals.
An excellent way of optimising your daily intake of these invaluable omega-3s is to supplement with EPA and DHA (try Arctic Plankton Oil, obtained from calanus oil, a species of zooplankton totally free from heavy metals) (5).
What about other types of fat? Always try to cook with olive oil, the indisputable star of the Mediterranean diet, with a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids. In addition, sprinkle a few nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts…) on your dishes, or slivers of avocado.
Protein-wise, lean poultry (chicken, turkey, duck …) are all foods to include because of their content both of amino acids, involved in neurotransmitter synthesis, and iron which supports the transport of oxygen in the body (6). Conversely, consumption of red meat should be restricted to a maximum of once a week).
The brain also consumes a significant amount of glucose, around 5g an hour! However, it doesn’t like to be fed it in fits and starts. So focus on eating slow-release complex carbohydrates found in wholegrains and pulses, rather than fast-acting sugars which produce sudden peaks in blood glucose levels (sweets, fizzy drinks, sweeteners…)
With a high content of vitamins and minerals, green vegetables (cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard, salad leaves …) are very much centre stage in the MIND diet (7). They are also high in fibre, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate which directly reaches the gut flora – indeed, the link between the microbiota and the brain continues to attract huge scientific interest (8).
As a back-up, you could opt for a soluble fibre supplement to support your microbiota (such as Organic Acacia, an organic acacia gum extract, very well-tolerated by the digestive system) (9).
For dessert, feast on berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries …) which contain anthocyanins and vitamin C. These fruits are delicate, however, and need to be eaten soon after purchase. For an easy way to benefit from their properties, you could take a highly-concentrated berry extract (such as Wild Maqui Berry, an extract of wild maqui berry, exceptionally rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins). (10)
Last but not least, remember to drink plenty of water! Even slight dehydration can significantly affect brain capacity (11).
Cook half a cup of quinoa according to the instructions on the packet. Remove the shells from 10 cooked shrimps. Break 150g of broccoli into florets and steam for 10 minutes.
Make a vinaigrette by mixing together 1 tbsp of olive oil with a squeeze of lemon juice and, if liked, a crushed garlic clove.
Assemble all the ingredients on a plate, drizzle with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
The day before, mix 2 tbsp of chia seeds with 125ml of oat milk, stirring for 2 minutes. Leave to rest in the fridge overnight.
The next day, sprinkle generously with pomegranate seeds, diced kiwi and raisins.
Adjust the quantities according to age, sex and level of physical activity.
Home-made muesli (40g of oat flakes + half a banana + a handful of cranberries + 10 walnuts)
+ 125 ml of unsweetened plant milk
100g of grated carrot + 1 tsp of rapeseed oil
100g of grilled sardines + 65g of wholewheat spaghetti (uncooked weight) + 200g of spinach + 1 tsp of olive oil
1 fromage blanc with raspberry coulis
1 bowl of creamy pea and courgette soup
Salad of green lentils (70g uncooked weight), onion and parsley + 1 tbsp of walnut oil + 1 tsp of cider vinegar
1 ramekin of apple and cinnamon compote
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