What is the MIND Diet?

There are a lot of traditional diets out there where the focal point is weight loss, but that isn’t necessarily the case for the MIND Diet. MIND is an acronym for Mediterranea-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, combining portions of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet. Over the past few years, the MIND Diet has been consistently ranked as one of the best out there in terms of overall health benefits, and it’s quite easy to follow.

The program was developed with the key focus of preventing Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that affects more millions of senior citizens in the United States alone. There are certain foods that provide a lot of benefits for brain health, and following the program will also lead to weight loss in many of the participants.

Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid

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There are 10 foods that are highly encouraged while on the MIND Diet, and five that are almost completely off limits. Here are the foods that you should be eating more often according to the plan:

  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Greens
  • Beans
  • Whole Grains
  • Berries
  • Poultry
  • Wine
  • Olive Oil

And here are the foods that the MIND Diet says that you should avoid:

  • Cheese
  • Sweets
  • Butter
  • Red Meat
  • Fried Food

How Much You Should Eat

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The MIND Diet doesn’t lay out a completely specific daily plan like some of the more popular short term diets offer. Instead, there is a suggestion of how much of each food you should be eating on a weekly basis in the long term. It’s suggested that you use olive oil every time that you cook any meat. Speaking of meat, fish should be consumed once per week while poultry should be twice per week.

Berries should be consumed at least twice per week, with beans making up three servings and nuts making up five. Leafy greens should be consumed of at least six servings per week, although there is no maximum on how much of them you can eat. The only daily suggestions are other non-leafy vegetables (such as carrots or cauliflower) and wine. That might sound a little surprising, but the MIND Diet says that you should be drinking exactly one glass of wine each day.

As for the foods you should avoid, the MIND program says that red meat should not be consumed four or more times each week. Cheese and fast food should be avoided at almost any cost unless it is one very small serving each week. Sweets should be consumed less than five times per week while butter is limited to under one tablespoon each day. As long as you don’t have too big of a sweet tooth, it should be an easy enough program to stick to.

What do the Studies Say?

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When a diet is consistently ranked toward the top, you can bet there are a lot of studies to back up the claims that are made. The MIND Diet has certainly had a lot of benefits for participants in extensive studies. Martha Clare Morris, PhD of the Rush University Medical Center said that more than 50 percent of patients that participated in the diet had their risk for Alzheimer’s Disease lowered, while around one third that only stuck partially to the program saw a decrease in their chances for Alzheimer’s.

Morris said that it was encouraging that people that only participated moderately saw significant benefits, and that “I think that will motivate people.” It wasn’t a small study either, as nearly a decade of research over the course of more than 900 patients was reviewed. It was an interesting study, as those that followed either only the Mediterranean Diet or only the DASH Diet didn’t see much of a decrease in their Alzheimer’s risk.

But what about weight loss? With all of the healthy foods that are involved, the nutrients are there to promote weight loss. There is also the lack of fried foods and sugar, which are huge parts of other weight loss programs. While studies of the MIND Diet didn’t have much of a focus on weight, there have been studies that showed food additives are linked to weight gain, which are you avoiding on the MIND Diet.

How to Drop the Pounds with the MIND Diet

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While there are suggested recommendations on what you should be eating every week, it’s still important to watch how many calories you are taking in while eating this healthy diet. Serving sizes will depend on the person’s size that’s participating in the diet. Obviously, a 300 pound man is going to need more calories (no matter how healthy they are) compared to a 150 pound woman. Dietician Kate Patton reminded those that followed the MIND program that “Eat too much of anything, even healthy foods, and you will gain weight.

Let’s take a look at the weekly calories that you would be eating from a sample diet of the healthy foods alone on the MIND Diet:

  • 1 Cup of Carrots (50 Calories) x7 = 350 Calories
  • 1 Cup of Spinach (7 Calories) x6 = 42 Calories
  • 1 Ounce of Almonds (163 Calories) x5 = 815 Calories
  • ½ Cup of Blueberries (42 Calories) x2 = 84 Calories
  • ¼ Cup of Cooked Beans (50 Calories) = 150 Calories
  • 1 Slice of Multigrain Bread (109 Calories) x21 = 2,289 Calories
  • 4 Ounces of Fish (234 Calories) x1 = 234 Calories
  • 4 Ounces of Chicken (271 Calories) x2 = 542 Calories
  • 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil (119 Calories) x3 = 357 Calories
  • 1 Glass of Wine (123 Calories) x 7 = 861 Calories

That’s a total of 5,724 calories each week from the healthy foods alone (if you follow the suggested serving sizes). Most people need around 10,000 calories each week to lose weight, so that would put you well under the suggested weight loss program. The difference comes from how much you eat in the non-suggested category. Here is what it looks like if you eat the maximum amount of foods from that category:

  • 4 Ounces of Red Meat (376 Calories) x3 = 1,128 Calories
  • ½ Tablespoon of Butter (51 Calories) x7 = 357 Calories
  • ½ Ounce of Cheese (57 Calories) x1 = 57 Calories
  • 1 Pastry (156 Calories) x 4 = 624 Calories
  • 1 Order of French Fries (340 Calories) x1 = 340 Calories

Eating the maximum amount of non-suggested foods will account for 2,506 each week. Combined with the minimum amount of suggested foods from the list will add up to around 8,230 calories each week (or 1,175 calories per day). That’s a pretty good number if you are looking to lose weight as long as you aren’t getting too many calories from going over the minimum for healthier foods and tucking away those extra calories.

The most effective way to promote weight loss while on the MIND Diet is to combine the carbs that you will be eating (mainly from the grains and beans) with the high protein foods (such as chicken and fish) and high fiber foods. Mixing all of them together will help your digestion, giving you an energy boost and avoiding those pesky crashes that a lot of us get.

The Best Benefit

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One thing that a lot of us hate about diets is how hard they are to follow. Sometimes we can feel that we aren’t eating enough, and will often get cravings for the foods that we are giving up. The MIND Diet has been ranked as the easiest to follow by U.S. News, and its long term health benefits are also among the top, including a slow reduction to a healthy weight if you are currently overweight.

The MIND Diet is not for people that want to lose pounds quickly, but instead want to see an overall health boost that will help increase your life expectancy. You can expect to lose weight while on the MIND Diet, but it’s not necessarily promising “drop three dress sizes by Wednesday” like a lot of diets do.

In Summary

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If you decide that you want to give the MIND Diet a try and don’t see any significant weight loss after the first couple of weeks or months, you still may be taking in too many calories. There is a lot of flexibility in the MIND Diet, so you don’t have to adhere to the plan to the letter. You can give yourself a personal calorie deficit by swapping out some of the foods, especially in the grain department. Although it’s suggested that you have three servings per day, you can get it from something besides bread or other high calorie foods. 

Fast food junkies might want to avoid the MIND Diet (unless you’re ready to quit the quick meals) since it’s suggested that you eat less than one serving each week from these types of restaurants. You’re still able to go out and enjoy a meal, but keeping it healthy is easier when there’s a larger menu. With all of the positive reviews and benefits from the MIND Diet, it’s easier just to call it the MIND Lifestyle because it’s easier to stick to. Adding exercise will almost ensure that you can lose weight by following this regimen.