MIND Diet: Best Foods to Eat to Keep Your Brain Young

By: Melinda Wenner Moyer

Eating these healthy foods on the MIND diet can help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The MIND diet is based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet—two healthy eating plans in their own right. The MIND diet focuses specifically on foods that can help your brain and reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. Over decades of research, nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center identified 10 key foods associated with better brain function and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. Each of these foods is rich in compounds that have been shown to protect and nourish the brain. Here's what to eat more of each week on the MIND diet.

Related: Your Anti-Aging Diet

1. Whole Grains

Farro Salad with Cranberries and Persimmons

Pictured recipe: Farro Salad with Cranberries and Persimmons

You should eat: ≥21 servings (3 per day). One serving is ½ cup cooked grains.

Brown rice, oats and other whole grains are high in magnesium, which helps brain cells use energy.

2. Leafy Greens

Sautéed Broccoli & Kale with Toasted Garlic Butter

Pictured recipe: Sautéed Broccoli & Kale with Toasted Garlic Butter

You should eat: ≥6 servings/week. One serving is 2 cups raw greens or 1 cup cooked greens.

Greens contain antioxidants including beta carotene and folate, and they are also rich in vitamin K, which is used to make brain cell membranes.

3. Berries

Berry-Almond Smoothie Bowl

Pictured recipe: Berry-Almond Smoothie Bowl

You should eat: ≥2 servings/week. One serving is 1 cup of berries. 

Berries contain flavonoids, which strengthen connections between neurons, making it easier for them to communicate.

4. Nuts

Dark Chocolate Trail Mix

Pictured recipe: Dark Chocolate Trail Mix

You should eat: ≥5 servings/week. One serving is 1 ounce of nuts or about 24 almonds or 49 pistachios. 

Almonds are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that absorbs damaging free radicals surrounding brain cells, while walnuts contain anti-­inflammatory omega-3 fats.

5. Beans

Composed Bean Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Pictured recipe: Composed Bean Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

You should eat: ≥4 servings/week. One serving of beans is ½ cup cooked.

Many beans, including chickpeas, navy beans and pinto beans, are rich in magnesium, which helps brain cells use energy.

6. Vegetables

Rainbow Buddha Bowl with Cashew Tahini Sauce

Pictured recipe: Rainbow Buddha Bowl with Cashew Tahini Sauce

You should eat: ≥7 servings/week (1 per day). One serving of vegetables is 1 cup or 2 cups of raw greens.

Veggies are full of vitamins, such as folate. In a 2012 study, women with Alzheimer's plaques and higher folate levels had fewer dementia symptoms.

7. Wine

Classic Sangria

Pictured recipe: Classic Sangria

You should drink: ≥7 servings/week (5 oz. a day). One serving of wine is 5 ounces. 

It's still unclear why one serving of wine a day is good for the brain, but take note: more than one glass a day seems to do more damage than good.

8. Fish

One-Skillet Salmon with Fennel & Sun-Dried Tomato Couscous

Pictured recipe: One-Skillet Salmon with Fennel & Sun-Dried Tomato Couscous

You should eat: ≥1 serving/week. One serving of fish is 4 ounces cooked.

Oily fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation and are used to build the brain's solid matter.

9. Poultry

Roast Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

Pictured recipe: Roast Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

You should eat: ≥2 servings/week. One serving of chicken or turkey is 3 ounces cooked. 

Poultry is rich in choline, a B vitamin that is important for brain development and, according to a 2011 study, could protect against dementia.

10. Olive Oil

Grilled Summer Vegetables with Shallot-Herb Vinaigrette

Pictured recipe: Grilled Summer Vegetables with Shallot-Herb Vinaigrette

You should: Use as your primary cooking oil.

Olive oil is rich in oleo­canthol, a compound that calms the inflammatory ­enzymes COX-1 and COX-2.

Watch: Top Memory-Boosting Foods

Related:
Foods to Avoid on the MIND Diet
Mood-Boosting Recipes
Healthy Aging Meal Plans