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Updated on: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 02:26 PM IST

MIND diet: The key to keep your brain robust and young

Here’s a comprehensive guide for keeping one of the most important organs healthy
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Anti-ageing is the latest talk in the town. Who doesn't want to feel young, look young and live young? Most importantly, everyone wishes to ensure a healthy mind as they grow older. Studies conducted in India revealed that certain neurological diseases such as stroke, epilepsy, headaches, Parkinson's and dementia are highly prevalent among the country’s urban population in the past three decades. In India , the contribution of non-communicable neurological disorders has doubled to 8.2% in 2019 from 4.0% in 1990.

Brain health is greatly influenced by what we eat. Your daily dietary habits may help you ward off Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or stroke.

The MIND diet stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a combination of Mediterranean eating patterns and the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) that focuses on promoting brain health. Both Mediterranean and DASH diets are proven to be beneficial for heart health, reduce the risk of diabetes type 2 and prevent multiple other lifestyle or diet-related non-communicable diseases.

The MIND diet has been well-documented for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Research has demonstrated that the MIND diet can slow cognitive decline with ageing. Those who follow this diet were reported to have had a 53% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease than those who did not.

A recent 2019 study reported that it’s not the Mediterranean diet, but the MIND diet that reduced the odds of 12-year cognitive impairment. In the same year, another study by Cherian and colleagues demonstrated that the MIND diet slows the cognitive decline after stroke. However, more well-designed, controlled studies are recommended to understand the MIND diet’s mechanism of action to promote brain health.

The MIND diet from an Indian perspective: Foods in the MIND diet include 10 items that are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and anti-inflammatory compounds. The major food groups in this diet are whole grains such as oats, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread. Along with these, Indians can include millets such as jowar, bajra, ragi as the preferred choice of whole grains. Beans, lentils, and soybeans are recommended at least four times in the MIND diet and in India, we have an abundance of these foods. Beans and lentils are rich in fibre, B vitamins and antioxidants that are proven to be potential brain health promoting nutrients.

MIND diet advises consumption of six or more servings of green, leafy vegetables every week including methi, spinach, drumstick leaves and lettuce. India produces a wide variety of green leafy vegetables. However, regular consumption is not optimum among Indians.

Along with green leafy vegetables, other non-starchy vegetables are also included in the MIND diet. Carrot, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, pumpkin, green beans are non-starchy veggies Indians can include in their MIND diet.

Berries are crucial inclusion to the MIND diet and are recommended twice a week. Blueberries and raspberries, two common foods from this group, are not available to a larger section of Indians. However, strawberries, oranges and grapes are good alternatives to these and can be included in the daily Indian diet to promote brain health.

Nuts come next and five or more servings of nuts are recommended per week. Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts are some good varieties to include. Nuts are easily available in India. All we need to do is include nuts in our daily diet.

The MIND diet includes olive oil as a major cooking medium. In India, the use of olive oil is rare as a cooking medium and can be replaced with ghee and coconut oil as the preferred mode of cooking. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are found to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Fish is the preferred choice of protein in the MIND diet, which includes salmon, trout, sardine, mackerel, etc. These fishes provide omega-3 fatty acid, a crucial nutrient for brain health. Pescatarians can easily incorporate a variety of fish into their daily diet to prevent cognitive declination. Eat fish at least once a week as recommended by the MIND diet.

The MIND diet includes lean protein from chicken and turkey at least twice a week. The preferred mode of eating is grilled and roasted. Fried chicken isn’t recommended in the MIND diet.

Red wine is a part of the MIND diet but no more than one glass per day is allowed. Research found that red wine helps prevent Alzheimer’s as it contains resveratrol, a potential antioxidant. However, it’s best not to drink wine every day to avoid overindulgence.

Foods avoided in the MIND diet include high quantities of cheese, red meat, fried foods, pastries, sweets, etc. that are well-known sources of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids and sugar. Trans-fatty acids are linked to almost all degenerative diseases including the neurodegenerative ones. Health outcomes of saturated fat are highly debatable among the nutrition community. Some research revealed that excessive consumption of saturated fats is linked to poor brain health. However, it is unclear if these outcomes could be linked to saturated fats alone.

The final remark: Antioxidant nutrients in the MIND diet may promote optimum brain health and prevent multiple neurodegenerative diseases. Further research will provide more insight into the MIND diet's benefits. While the diet does not adhere to the standard Indian diet, a variety of staples can be included to tailor it to Indian eating habits.

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Published on: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 11:49 AM IST
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