Following the MIND and DASH Diets
When you hear the word diet, it can be a little uncomfortable, especially if your initial thought is one of the many fad diets that do not work and are unhealthy to follow. There is endless debate on the internet on what foods are best.
Plus, building a healthy diet and sticking to it can be a tough challenge; it takes about 66 days on average to develop one healthy habit. Diets require you to reframe your view of food into a healthier perspective. This can be hard when healthy foods have the reputation of being unexciting and flavorless. While it can be hard to change what you eat, the tangible and evidence-backed benefits of the MIND and DASH diets will make that switch much simpler.
Rather than thinking of a diet negatively, begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle by retraining the way you think about food. Rather than negatively associating a diet with depriving yourself of the foods you enjoy eating, a diet can simply mean rethinking the foods you eat and not a difficult set of restrictions.
Eliminating the intimidating connotations with the word can make the journey easier to start. Instead of thinking about MIND or DASH guidelines as dieting, think of them as making long-term alterations to the foods you consume for the health benefits they provide.
Next, let's look at what these diets are and why healthcare professionals recommend them to their patients:
● The DASH (or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a research-based approach to help control and prevent high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke in American adults.
~ High blood pressure is when the force of your blood is consistently too high. This leads to the heart and blood vessels working harder and less efficiently to push blood through your body.
~ On average, one in four deaths each year in the United States is due to heart disease or stroke. Reducing the risk of these conditions is critical for public health.
~ This diet is focused on reducing sodium and saturated fat intake and increasing foods high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.
~ When shopping for food that will fit the DASH diet, remember that you should be looking for low sodium and low-fat options.
● The MIND (or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet aims to help improve brain health by slowing brain aging and lessening the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.
~ Alzheimer's disease affected 5.8 million Americans over the age of 65 in 2020, a number expected to triple by 2060 if preventative measures are not taken.
~ This diet focuses on foods high in nutrients and minerals that promote brain health by combining the Mediterranean and DASH diets.
Because the MIND diet is based partially on the DASH diet, there are many similarities, but they also differ. For example, both diets limit the number of sweets and added sugar in your diet and limit meat to only a few servings a week.
The important thing to note is that neither diet entirely removes any type of food. Instead, the diets recommend limiting the amount you consume weekly. So, your favorites are still on the menu.
Focus Food Groups
● Both diets focus heavily on vegetables.
~ DASH does not differentiate between types of vegetables when getting your five servings a day.
~ MIND emphasizes having six servings of leafy greens a week, especially spinach and salad greens, and one other serving of vegetables a day.
● Both diets encourage grains, especially whole-grain options.
~ DASH recommends 6-8 servings.
~ MIND only suggests three or more.
● Both diets suggest that you have fruits multiple times a day.
~ There are no suggestions as to what types in the DASH diet.
~ The MIND diet recommends berries, like blueberries and strawberries, because they were most effective at slowing cognitive decline.
● DASH limits nuts, seeds, and legumes to four to five servings a week, while MIND suggests at least five servings of nuts a week.
~ Both place an emphasis on unsalted nuts like roasted almonds.
● The place where the dietary patterns differ the most is the choice of oils and fats.
~ MIND discourages butter and margarine and says to use olive oil as your primary cooking oil.
~ DASH does not limit the type of fat or oil but recommends two to three servings per day.
These are both very effective and well-researched diets that only limit some of your favorite foods to only once or twice a week. While changing your diet can be difficult, the benefits of a healthier diet are astounding when you look at the research. Take a moment to assess your diet and see where you can make changes or substitutions that help you in your daily life with the MIND or DASH diets.