The MIND Diet: “MIND” Your Fruits and Veggies

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | April 17, 2018

Time and time again, both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have been shown to improve many aspects of our health. While the Mediterranean diet focuses more on heart health benefits and the prevention of coronary heart disease, or CVD, and the DASH diet has been shown to prevent and reverse hypertension, or high blood pressure, studies show that when combined, these diets provide brain health benefits to those who are recovering from stroke.

Stroke survivors suffer damage to the brain tissue due to a lack of oxygen to the brain during a stroke. Because of this trauma, they have a higher risk of cognitive decline and twice the risk of dementia. An initial study that was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging suggests that stroke survivors who eat a diet primarily consisting of leafy greens, fish and a variety of healthy and natural whole foods can potentially preserve brain functionality over time.

In this initial study, both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet were combined to create the MIND diet which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet. Researchers looked at the link between 106 stroke survivors, their dietary intakes and their cognitive decline over a 5-year period.

The study showed that the stroke survivors who ate the largest amounts of green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grain and beans had the highest cognitive ratings. The researchers went on to state that when an individual’s diet included dark green leafy vegetables and berries as the major sources of vegetable and fruit intake, that individual suffered less problems with memory and other markers of cognitive decline. They concluded that there likely is an association and that more research is needed to prove this theory.

The MIND diet is rich in nutrients that can help strengthen our brain tissues and brain functions. Such nutrients discussed in this study included vitamin K, folate, beta carotene and lutein which can be found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, arugula, mustard greens and collard greens.

This heart-healthy and brain health-promoting diet is a positive treatment option for stroke survivors who tend to be put on many medications after their strokes. A dietary change requires no prescription, and it tastes great! It’s a simple and enjoyable way to maintain high cognitive function post-stroke.

This research leads us to think about stroke prevention, as well. Perhaps we should all MIND our diets for a host of reasons. Now let’s go have a large kale salad with almonds, blueberries and roasted red pepper and olive oil dressing!

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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/ Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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