Food is Fuel For Our Brain: The Mind Diet May Be Exactly What We Need
The importance of food is entirely obvious: it keeps us alive! But let’s get to the nitty-gritty; aside from keeping us alive, our diet has a direct impact on our daily performance. It supplies us with the energy and nutrients we need to grow, stay active, think, and learn. Even more? The food we consume has a forceful influence on our moods, mind, and long-term health. Long story short, deciding what to eat every day can mean much more than just deciding between Chik-fil-A and Chipotle on a Friday night. Ultimately, food is fuel for our bodies (AND our brains) and The Mind Diet may be exactly what we need!
- Micro and macronutrients support our daily and long-term health, but only 1 in 10 American adults eats the recommended amount of daily fruits and vegetables.
- The Mind Diet has an aim to focus on foods that support brain health and minimize your risk of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Dementia by eating greens, whole grains, berries, nuts, beans, fish, poultry, and olive oil.
- There are virtually no drawbacks to the Mind Diet; in addition to supporting brain health, it can lower cholesterol and reduce intake of saturated fats, making it a good approach for anyone.
Why food is the fuel we need
We all know food is critical to survive. Whether you view food as a necessary evil, a guilty pleasure, or somewhere in between, there is no denying that (although you may think it’s your cup of coffee) our diets are what supply us with energy to get up and moving every day! Specifically, we need a proper intake of fruits, veggies, proteins, and fats to keep us healthy, and in today’s world of convenience culture, meeting the recommended intake of micronutrients proves to be a challenge for most.
The CDC highlights that only 1 in 10 American adults currently eats a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables; thus, 9 out of 10 American adults are also missing out on all the mighty micronutrients that produce has to offer. Our bodies are unable to produce these essential micronutrients on their own, so it is critical we turn to our faithful fruits and our gracious greens to fulfill us with the vitamins we need for immune function, healthy development, and bone health, just to name a few of the benefits.
Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of cancers are among some of the biggest killers in America: proof that while our diet has a tremendously direct impact on our day-to-day lives, it also has a tremendous impact on our future health. Loading up your body on processed foods, added sugars, saturated fats, and a variety of additives and preservatives can truly be detrimental, and often, we don’t even realize that what we’re eating is chock-full of them.
Shifting your perspective to truly see that food is fuel that your body needs every day can help you be more aware and intentional about what you put in your body. Also, don’t get it twisted: I’m not saying to decline the piece of cake on your sister’s birthday, or to eat the most boring salad ever at your GNO. Simply remembering to consider on a daily basis that your mood, your skin, your gut health, your personality, your energy levels, your future health, and much, much more all start with what is on the end of your fork is key!
What is The Mind Diet?
With that being said, the Mind Diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is a hybrid diet based on a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, ultimately focusing on foods that support brain health and minimize your risk of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Contrary to most fad diets, the Mind Diet emphasizes a healthy and consistent incorporation of whole foods into your daily diet such as whole grains, leafy greens, berries, nuts, beans, fish, poultry, and olive oil.
As mentioned, the Mind Diet is a hybrid between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. To distinguish between all three of them, the Mediterranean diet is a diet that focuses on consuming healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, veggies and nuts to support heart health; the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is extremely similar in regards to the foods it encourages, but it focuses on treating and preventing high blood pressure. One underlying theme between all three: stressing whole foods with the ultimate goal of encouraging a healthy body!
Currently, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and one study found that those who consistently followed the Mind Diet reduced their chances of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53%. Foods that adhere with this diet are rich in fiber and packed with nutrients that assist brain health including vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, potassium, and folate.
Putting an emphasis on plant-based, whole foods that are minimally processed (if anything) automatically limits packaged foods that are filled to the brim with saturated fats and contain more added sugars than you could fathom. Further, it avoids placing an emphasis on weight loss by shifting the perspective of the “diet” to more of a lifestyle; this isn’t meant to be a short-term quick fix, but rather a sustainable approach to eating.
Benefits and Limitations
Overall, there are a plethora of benefits to the Mind Diet aside from boosting your brain power. In addition to minimizing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body that impairs brain cells, the Mind Diet is low in saturated fats and added sugars. Additionally, it can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. While it isn’t the goal of the diet, it can also inadvertently help with weight loss by eliminating processed, fried, packaged, foods, as well as butter, cheese, pastries, and sweets.
One of the best parts about this diet is that there are virtually no limitations as to who can partake; unless you have food intolerances or allergies and need to modify, this diet is a healthy approach to eating for everyone, and it has no drawbacks. (It also allows you to drink red wine, so The Bachelor watch parties are still perfectly acceptable!)
Whether you choose to partake in the Mind Diet or not, it is critical to balance your plate every day with fiber, healthy fats, and proteins to stay healthy and happy. Keep in mind that restricting your diet isn’t for everyone, but fruits and veggies are! Loading up your plates (and your tummy) with them in whatever way works best for you in the long-term is the key. If you don’t know where to start, you can get fiber from vegetables, protein from fish, chicken, or other plant-based sources, and healthy fats from avocado and olive oil. (And if you ever get overwhelmed, returning to your greens is always a great place to go back to. I cannot stress eating your greens enough!)
Remember: food is fuel!
Written by Morgan Taylor