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The MIND Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

Have you heard of the MIND Diet? Can it work for diabetes and lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease? Find out!

Blueberries! Blueberries! Blueberries! Is that really the panacea? Could it be the key to the fountain of youth and stellar long-term cognitive function? Many studies show that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of Alzheimer's. However, you can also reduce that risk by exercising, eating right, and living a healthy lifestyle.

What is the MIND diet?

The MIND Diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) seems to be just what the doctor ordered. It takes the best of both worlds. It's a hybrid of two of the most popular diets around: the heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and it’s based on credible science.

Can the MIND Diet realistically fit into diabetes management?

But wait a minute - before we go any further, it appears to be a remedy for those who don't have to worry about carbohydrate intake. However, what about the millions of Americans who are managing type 2 diabetes? Blueberry overload can't be good for the high blood sugar business, right? Let's take a closer look at the MIND Diet to see if it has what it takes to win over the hearts and, more importantly, in this case, the minds of those with type 2 diabetes.

What the research says…

Two recent MIND studies of the same cohort showed promising results. In one study, "higher MIND diet score was associated with slower decline in cognitive abilities. The MIND diet score was based on foods that have a protective effect on cognitive decline. The rate reduction for persons in the highest tertile of diet scores compared with the lowest tertile was the equivalent of being 7.5 years younger in age…" I can hear the compliments now, "My, my, your brain seems so young." Furthermore, "the MIND Diet was more predictive of cognitive decline than either of the other diet scores from the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet".1 Okay, so now you’re thinking, I want that smart and brainy diet!

Another study stated, "Greater adherence to the overall dietary pattern may be protective against the development of Alzheimer's disease. The estimated effect was a 53% reduction for the highest tertile of scores, and a 35% reduction for the middle tertile of scores, compared with the lowest tertile."2

Foods to eat and foods to avoid

What are the specific dietary components of the MIND Diet that make it a superior choice to maximize brain function and minimize memory loss? Here are the ten foods to focus on and the recommended numbers of servings:

  • Green, leafy vegetables (at least six servings per week)
  • All other vegetables (at least one serving per day -but come on you want to be in that brainy group so eat more)
  • Berries (at least two servings per week)
  • Nuts (at least five servings per week)
  • Olive oil (as the primary cooking oil)
  • Whole grains (at least three servings per day)
  • Fish, not fried (at least once per week)
  • Beans (more than three meals per week)
  • Poultry, not fried (at least two meals per week)
  • Wine (optional; no more than one glass per day and remember it's not required)3,4

Here are the five foods to limit/avoid and recommended servings:

  • Butter/margarine (less than one tablespoon per day)
  • Cheese (less than one serving per week)
  • Red meat (less than one serving per week)
  • Fried or fast food (less than one serving per week)
  • Pastries and sweets (less than one serving per week)3,4

What about the diabetes concerns?

Well, as you can see, the MIND Diet strongly discourages the consumption of pastries and sweets, so that aspect is diabetes-friendly. Regarding other starchy considerations, whole grains intake (at least three servings per day) isn't that much! Beans, another go-to healthy starchy choice, is suggested for more than three meals per week, so that's not really overdoing it. All things in moderation, right?

Now, what about those aforementioned carb-heavy blueberries? When it comes down to it, the MIND Diet only calls for a modest intake of at least two servings of berries per week, which is very reasonable and not excessive at all. But you can include berries every day as a brain-boosting food. If you do choose blueberries, the wild blueberries have 40% more antioxidants. And don't forget raspberries too!

Furthermore, there is no recommendation to emphasize fruits, in general, so those with diabetes wouldn't have to worry about filling up on carbs via fruit – berries are the only fruit that would be necessary to attain that coveted brainpower.

So the answer is…

A resounding YES! The MIND Diet can be a welcomed addition to incorporate into the lifestyle of a person with type 2 diabetes. So, go ahead and enjoy those blueberries to your heart's and mind's content! And if you have any concerns about changing your diet, please discuss it with your doctor or a Registered Dietician.

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