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Healthy Aging: How the MIND Diet Can Help

Beth Bradford

Apr 1, 2023

You don't have to accept aging as an inevitable decline in health. There are steps you can take to age healthier, and one of the best options out there is the MIND diet.

The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is based on the Mediterranean and DASH diets, two well-researched eating plans that have both been found to offer numerous health benefits. The MIND diet takes these two plans a step further by focusing specifically on foods that promote healthy brain aging. This includes adding additional nutrients and limiting unhealthy fats, sodium, and simple carbohydrates.

With its combination of nutritious foods and healthy lifestyle habits, the MIND diet offers an ideal way to support optimal brain health as you age. In this article, we'll explain why the MIND diet is so powerful, how to get started with it, and what you can expect in terms of results.

What Foods Should You Eat on the MIND Diet?

The MIND diet focuses on foods that are known to improve brain health by preventing age-related cognitive decline.

Specifically, it is important to eat plenty of:

  • Leafy green vegetables – spinach, kale and other greens are plentiful with antioxidants and vitamins that boost brain health. You should aim for six servings a week, which could include a green salad.

  • Other vegetables – aim for at least one serving of non-starchy veggies a day.

  • Berries – blueberries, strawberries and other berries are rich in flavonoids that protect against inflammation and oxidative stress. They help slow down the aging process in the brain. Add at least two servings of berries to your diet each week.

  • Nuts – walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and improve overall brain health. Add five servings a week, but be sure not to go overboard. A serving of nuts is just a small handful or ¼ cup.

  • Whole grains – whole grain pasta, quinoa and brown rice provide essential B vitamins which protect against cognitive decline. Aim for three servings a day.

  • Fish – fatty fish such as salmon or tuna contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D, which is essential for good mental function. Incorporate fish into your weekly meal plan at least once a week.

  • Beans/legumes – these fiber-packed foods will improve your gut health. Add four servings of these foods per week.

  • Poultry (chicken and/or turkey) – two or more servings per week

  • Olive oil – use as the primary fat source

  • Wine (optional) – up to one glass per day, not to exceed two glasses.

The key here is variety—the MIND diet encourages a combination of various foods like vegetables, whole grains, nuts and berries. Eating this way can help protect your brain from aging and may even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53%. Eating the foods on this list will also give you an abundance of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that work together to keep your brain functioning properly.

You’ll also want to avoid or limit these foods:

  • Red or processed meat – limit to less than four servings a week.

  • Pastries and sweets – less than five servings per week

  • Fried or fast foods – less than one serving per week

  • Full-fat cheese – less than one ounce per week

By following the MIND diet guidelines above, you can ensure your dietary intake supports healthy aging into adulthood, helping you stay sharp mentally regardless of age.

Overview of Scientific Research Supporting the MIND Diet

In a study conducted by Rush University Medical Center, researchers found that individuals who strictly adhered to the MIND diet had up to a 53% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease dementia compared to people who didn't follow the diet. Furthermore, research suggests that greater adherence to the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive performance on tests of memory and executive function.

Another study in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy analyzed the diets of more than 8,000 people in Rotterdam and followed up several years later to determine whether or not they developed dementia. The people who ate more foods connected to the MIND diet were less likely to develop dementia. 

A systematic review of research found that in 78% of studies, the MIND diet is largely associated with improved cognition in older adults. They also found that the MIND diet improves cognition better than the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet, pro-vegetarian, and Baltic Sea diets.

These studies support that lifestyle modifications, such as following dietary patterns like the MIND diet, can help delay or prevent age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s dementia. While more studies are needed to further examine the protective mechanisms of this type of diet, there is ample evidence suggesting that adhering to the MIND diet as part of an overall healthy lifestyle can increase longevity and protect against cognitive decline as part of healthy aging.

Meal Planning and Recipes for a MIND Diet Friendly Lifestyle

Following the principles of the MIND Diet doesn't have to feel like a chore. With a few tips and tricks, you can easily incorporate the health benefits of the MIND Diet into your lifestyle.

Meal Planning

Planning out your meals ahead of time can help you stay on track with your MIND Diet goals. Start by mapping out what you’ll be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, making sure to include all of the recommended components like one green salad daily and three servings of whole grains per day. Additionally, consider preparing snacks that meet MIND diet guidelines. This way, if a craving strikes, you’ll reach for something healthy instead of reaching for something unhealthy.


One way to make sure you stick to your diet is to keep a list of recipes that comply with the MIND Diet guidelines. Search for recipes online or in cookbooks that focus on foods like leafy greens and other vegetables—aim for one serving each day—whole grains and seafood. When selecting recipes, factor in ease as well as taste; choose meals that don’t require long preparation times or complex cooking techniques so that you are more likely to stick with them.

Tips for Transitioning to the MIND Diet

Making the switch to the MIND diet can sometimes be challenging, but the health benefits are worth it! Here are a few tips you can use to help ease your transition:

Focus on Meal Variety

Eating a variety of foods helps you get all the nutrients your body needs. Aim to include some protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats at every meal. Legumes, nuts, and fish are great sources of proteins that provide complete nutrition. Choose whole grains over processed grains for carbohydrates and opt for healthy monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and avocados.

Incorporate Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition and should be included in every meal. Adding a handful of fresh greens to your morning smoothie or having a small side salad with lunch will give you an extra boost of vitamins and minerals. Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, or Swiss chard are especially nutrient-rich options that make a great addition to any meal.

Make Smart Swaps

When cooking, replace unhealthy saturated fats with healthy monounsaturated ones like olive oil or avocado oil. Instead of white rice choose quinoa which is higher in fiber, iron, magnesium, Vitamin B2, zinc and potassium. If you’re craving something sweet opt for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate as it has more cacao which contains antioxidants that are beneficial for heart health.

By following these tips you’ll be well on your way to living healthier and aging gracefully with the MIND diet.


The research is clear: Eating a healthy diet such as the MIND Diet can help you age both healthily and gracefully while reducing cognitive decline. In addition to the MIND Diet, incorporate physical activity, stress management, and socialization into your lifestyle to maximize the benefits.

Aging can be an exciting time of life, a chance to explore new hobbies, spend time with family, and travel. With the right diet, physical activity, and socialization, you can make sure that aging is an age of continued mental and physical health and well-being. Taking the steps to add the MIND Diet to your routine puts you in the driver’s seat of your own health-care plan and future.

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