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A diet to benefit your MIND and body

It’s time to start thinking about summer. This season is a great time to relax and spend time with family. One of the best ways to spend time with your family is during summer vacations, but planning for those can be expensive and time-consuming. At one time or another, we have all heard that exercise has benefits. Some of the most common benefits we tend to hear about are how exercise can help lower your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but the benefits only start there.

By Lora Davidson

Extension News

With the high prevalence of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in our elderly community, it is important to know the steps we can take to reduce our chances of developing these brain debilitating diseases.

There is now a diet to improve brain health that combines both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It is called the MIND diet.

Rather than strictly limiting certain food groups, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are more changes in lifestyle that have large amounts of research that support their effectiveness. They are used most commonly for improving heart health because they might lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of both heart disease and diabetes.

The MIND diet provides a general list of foods to include in your diet and how often we should eat them. These foods include vegetables, specifically dark, leafy greens; berries; nuts; olive oil; whole grains; fish; beans; and poultry.

It is suggested that you get six or more servings of green, leafy vegetables per week. The diet also recommends that berries be eaten at least twice a week, eating nuts five or more servings per week, using olive oil for cooking, and eating whole grains three times daily. Finally, the diet suggests you eat fish at least once a week, include beans in at least four meals a week, and eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week.

Although some of these recommendations might be hard to meet, it has been shown that following the diet even moderately could be beneficial for health.

There is also a list of foods to limit for the MIND diet. These include butter and margarine, cheese, red meats, fried foods, pastries, and sweets. All of these foods have saturated fats and trans fats, which have been associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Besides the heart health benefits, there are many other reasons to follow this diet. Researchers believe that because the diets are rich in antioxidants, the main benefit is the reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation. Both of these health benefits correlate to improved brain health.

It is also believed that the MIND diet can reduce harmful proteins naturally found in the body. These proteins have the potential to build up and form a type of plaque in the brain.

Although the MIND diet is relatively new and more research is needed, there are plenty of benefits related to an overall healthy lifestyle. We do know that foods we choose for heart health are great choices for brain health, too.

Lora Davidson is the Harlan County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.