Memory Meals

Another Life in the Moment Idea

The MIND Diet - 10 Foods to Eat

Jennifer Ventrelle, MS, RD, CPT (Rush University)

The MIND diet consists of 15 components, 10 healthy foods to consume daily or weekly and 5 unhealthy foods that should be limited. The foods highlight the nutrients and servings that have been demonstrated in study after study to protect the brain against oxidative stress and inflammation. These foods also help facilitate healthy brain function.

  1. Green Leafy Vegetables such as kale, spinach, chard, romaine, broccoli, and collards are rich sources of folate, Vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids. Enjoy at least 1 serving every day. Start each lunch or dinner with a fresh romaine or mixed green salad — this doesn’t have to be boring! Add some dried cranberries and crushed pecans. Or, try pairing peppery arugula with dried figs, cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a tasty salad with a sweet twist.
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Garlic Swiss Chard
  2. Most other vegetables are brain healthy, and quantity matters! Eat a salad + at least 1 other vegetable daily. Everyone loves pizza! Instead of pizza crust, top portabella mushroom caps with herbed marinara, fresh basil, low-fat mozzarella cheese, and any of your other favorite pizza toppings.
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
  3. Nuts contain unsaturated fats, Vitamin E, and antioxidants involved in neuro-protection of the brain. Eat 5 ounces per week. Use almonds, walnuts, or cashews as a crunchy topping for salads, yogurt, or fresh fruit salad. Or, keep it simple and enjoy a handful of your favorite nuts as a mid-day snack. Peanuts count!
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Cashew Salad
  4. Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, contain potent antioxidants to protect the brain. Eat at least ½ cup per day. Build a brain-healthy breakfast parfait by mixing nonfat Greek yogurt with a splash of vanilla extract, fresh or frozen blueberries, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Or, throw all the ingredients into a blender with a scoop of protein powder for a protein-packed start to the day.
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Fresh Berry Salad
  5. Beans and legumes are excellent sources of folate and other B-vitamins essential for brain health. Eat ½ cup 3 times per week. Beans and legumes are a great source of plant-based protein that are high in fiber and perfect for soups, stews, and chili recipes. Make your own hummus in a snap by adding a can of low sodium garbanzo beans, 1 garlic clove, a teaspoon of tahini (or any nut butter will do), and fresh lemon juice to a food processor. Enjoy with baby carrots, mini bell peppers, and cucumber coins. Follow the same process with a can of black beans and you’ve got a delicious black bean dip!
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Balsamic Thyme Lentils
  6. Whole grains are packed with Vitamin E, B-vitamins, and fiber. Eat 3 servings per day. It’s easy to get in 3 servings of whole grains each day. Start the morning with a slice of whole grain toast with hummus  spread, avocado slices and a twist of fresh lemon juice. For lunch, incorporate ½ cup of a high fiber grain such as quinoa or couscous into a leafy green salad for a hearty, satisfying meal. Finally, add a mid-day snack of light popcorn sprinkled with a dash of sea salt and a twist of fresh lime juice.
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Quinoa Smoked Salmon Bowl
  7. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, albacore tuna, and sardines are healthiest for the brain. Eat fatty fish baked, broiled, or grilled at least once a week. A fillet of wild Alaskan salmon makes a quick, easy, and delicious meal when topped with a can of no salt added diced tomatoes, fresh or dried rosemary, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Not a salmon lover? Mix a can of albacore tuna packed in water with non-fat plain Greek yogurt and enjoy on whole grain crackers for a brain boosting mid-day snack.
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Pomegranate Salmon
  8. Poultry, especially white meat chicken and turkey without the skin, is an excellent source of folate and other B-vitamins essential for brain health. It is recommended in 2 or more servings per week. Keep lean  proteins in the freezer at all times: boneless, skinless chicken breast, 93% lean ground turkey, or proportioned chicken burgers. No time to thaw? Pick up a rotisserie chicken from your local grocer and toss the skin – plenty of lean white meat on that bird! Or, make a quick and easy chicken salad with 1 can low sodium chicken packed in water and non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Add some chopped celery and carrots for an extra crunch if desired.
    MEMORYMEALSTM RECIPE: Apricot Chicken
  9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Use unrefined, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) as the primary oil. It’s important to use EVOO, as it is the highest quality of oil that contains more of the essential fatty acids found in olives and necessary for optimal brain health. This type of oil also retains more of its true olive taste. It is best used as dressings on salads or with whole grain bread for dipping instead of butter. Make a caprese salad with beefsteak tomato slices topped with fresh basil and mozzarella, and a drizzle of EVOO + balsamic vinegar.
  10. Wine contains antioxidants that contribute to brain health, but just 1 glass of wine per day is recommended. However, it is not recommended to begin drinking if you do not currently consume alcohol. You can also get polyphenols from red grapes as an excellent source of antioxidants.

The MIND Diet – 5 Foods to Avoid and Ideas for Substitution

  1. Red meat – No more than 3 servings per week. Save red meat for special occasions. Try choosing fish, poultry, or vegetarian protein sources as such as beans instead.
  2. Butter and stick margarine – Less than 1 pat or teaspoon per day. Ditch the stick and the tub spreads… use EVOO instead!
  3. Cheese (whole fat) – No more than twice per week Limit full-fat cheeses to 2 oz per week. Substitute low fat string cheese for snacking.
  4. Pastries and other sweets – No more than 4 treats per week. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Ask yourself if the treat in question is for a special occasion and indulge up to 4 times per week!
  5. Fried foods and fast food – No more than 1 meal per week. Consumption of fried foods and fast food are associated with cognitive decline. Limit these foods to no more than 1 meal per week.

The recommendations are not meant to be thought of as a “diet” in the traditional sense of the word, where one might be expected to follow a certain calorie level, take dietary supplements, or banish favorite foods to the forbidden foods bucket. Instead, the MIND foods should be used as a guide to form the basis for a brainhealthy eating pattern. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin).