I’m interested in nutrition and one of the things that I’d like to know if diet prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia. This issue is very personal to me. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s back in 2003, had it for many, many years before her death. It robbed Mom of her joy and her ability to enjoy her grandchildren. In fact, she barely knew Zoe at all. Not only that, but she suffered from the vascular type of this disease. (While commonly associated with heavy drinking, my mother averaged an alcohol intake of one weak can of beer every 5 or so years. She didn’t drink at all when she was older.) This form of Alzheimer’s makes its victims paranoid and suffer horrible delusions.
It was excruciating, to say the least. Not only that, but she had to be watched. She was prone to wondering and was also very destructive.
It got worse, and not just the disease for my mom and the struggle for our family. My sister, who I adore, had a big falling out over a misunderstanding. Discovering that my kids had disabilities while losing my mother was very difficult for me. Not only that, but my responsibilities made it difficult for me to help care for her. When I did come to help, she resisted taking medicine and put up a fight. It was like fighting with a baby who will not eat. It’s one of the saddest memories I have of my beautiful mother.
Soon after, I learned that people with Down syndrome also have a high rate of early-onset Alzheimer’s. To think that my beautiful daughter’s life could be cut short by this agonizing disease broke my heart. Would the fact that Mom had it make my daughter’s chances of getting it higher?
This association between Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome has sparked much research but treatment that really works or prevents it is still at least a good ways off. What is a parent to do?
The opportunity to review a book on the MIND diet to prevent Alzheimer’s was exciting to me! Ulysses Press sent me a copy of “The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Helping Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia” by Maggie Moon, MS, RDN. Moon is a registered dietician nutritionist who has also written “The Elimination Diet Workbook: A Personal Approach to Determining Your Food Allergies.” She has also developed curricula for Brooklyn College after school programs and other continuing ed dietitian programs. Let me get right into the book and show you how it can help your family.
How The MIND Diet Prevents Alzheimer’s – The Science
The MIND diet was developed by researchers at Rush University Medical Center and Harvard University. It was designed by a doctor based on the foundation of both the Mediterranean and the DASH diets. Dr. Martha Clare Morris, director of nutritional epidemiology in the department of internal medicine at Rush, designed it. She selected the the most brain-healthy elements of each diet based on research. These choices, in fact, make the diet less demanding than either of the diets it was derived from.
The first 5 chapters of this book are dedicated to educating the reader on the science behind why it’s believed the MIND diet prevents Alzheimer’s. With this book, there’s no need to worry about hard-to-read jargon. Moon makes sure the science isn’t dumbed down but is comprehensible for the lay reader. She begins with a basic overview of the brain and how it functions and definitions of cognition and dementia. She then plunges into what happens to the brain when Alzheimer’s and dementia strike.
Chapter 2 walks you through there supporting the idea that the MIND diet prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia (trust me, it’s painless). It shows compelling evidence that it can work. In particular, she reveals the results of two key studies on this diet show that it not only slows aging of the brain, but it “reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53%.” I’d say that’s a great a incentive to try it!
Nutrition: Good Food and Bad
The next part of this book is a great primer on brain-building nutrition. Chapters 3-5 cover foods that harm and help the brain as well as nutrient required. All of these provide the basis of a healthy diet that can lead to Alzheimer’s prevention. In fact, chapter 3, “Brain Healthy Foods,” goes into great depth on the foods, sorting them by category and season (for produce). This is an excellent chapter for those of us interested in nutrition who want to know the benefits of each and every type of healthy food. The chapter on “Brain Harming Foods” is short and full of the usual suspects, like fast foods. “Nutrients,” the last chapter in this section, reviews good and bad fats and key vitamins. It also teaches you about flavonoids and carotenoids, which you should be eating!
How The MIND Diet Works for You – The Plan
Chapter 6, “What to Eat (& Avoid)” goes into depth on this topic. Once you read this section, it’ll be clear what you need to eliminate and whether you need to add anything into your daily diet. It’s important to know that the MIND diet works on a scoring system. Simply keep track of your target goals of what you are recommended to eat. Then you total up whether or not you ate healthy for each meal during the week or day. You get a point for every “yes” response.
Although optimal score is 15, Moon lets you know that a score of 7 or 8 can be beneficial! This is great news for people who are struggling to break bad eating habits and need to take their time. In fact, although the chapter title references foods to “avoid,” the actual text reads, “The Avoid List: Foods to Limit on the MIND Diet.” For example, you should avoid 1 serving of pastries or sweets 5 days a week, but you don’t have to eliminate them altogether.
One other note: You might have noticed that image of a glass of wine on the cover. The MIND diet actually encourages a glass of wine every day! There are rules in place, though. You are not to have more than 5 ounces a day, and there is a limit to what kinds of wine. You are free, however, to choose red or white wine to suit your palette.
The next chapter covers “Meal Planning.” It provides sheets and scorecards you can copy, sample food plans, tips on food safety and guidelines for easily stocking your pantry. There are enough examples to make meal planning very easy to do.
The Recipes of The MIND Diet
The final section is the fun part: the recipes! It contains over 90 pages of breakfasts, main dishes, salads, soups, snacks, sides, spread, beverages and desserts. (Yes, there are desserts!) I’m totally for these easy recipes in the MIND diet that prevents Alzheimer’s! Take a peak at some of the foods you’ll be cooking
- Broiled Heirloom Tomato & Rosemary Frittata
- Lentil Patties with Basil Arugula Cashew Cream
- Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Popped Sorghum
- Raspberry Almond Oat Shake
- Chocolate Banana Raspberry Mousse
They sound delicious. Sign me up for all of them!
My Opinion on “The MIND Diet”
Can a diet prevent Alzheimer’s? I think so! If you’d like to try and prevent dementia, “The MIND DIET” is a good book for you. This is not a complex, overly involved diet plan. It’s easy to follow and has a simple system so that you can take the time to improve your scorecard over time. The book is also an easy and quick read. There aren’t too many diet books you can say that about! I do have to mention that there are no images in this paperback book. If you’re looking for tantalizing recipe images, you are out of luck. However, the recipes are delicious and not too complex to make.
While you can photocopy the meal plans in the book, that might be cumbersome with a paperback. Some readers might wish this book came with a companion website to download meal plan templates. That said, I prefer to do meal planning in a spreadsheet like Excel so it works for me.
Where to Buy
“The MIND Diet” is for purchase from:
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