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The MIND Diet

By Charlyn Fargo

There’s a new diet plan that may help you remember things. It’s appropriately nicknamed the MIND diet. It stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

A study at Rush University found people who followed the diet closely had a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those who followed it moderately had a 35% lower risk. Those who followed the DASH diet lowered risk by 39%. The findings were published in the March 2017 Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

So, how does the MIND diet work? The diet puts together the best from the Mediterranean diet – more fish, healthy fats, vegetables and whole grains – and the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.

The DASH diet has been found to reduce the risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke. The Mediterranean diet has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Together, they help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers found the MIND diet is easier to follow than the Mediterranean, which requires daily fish consumption and multiple servings of fruits and vegetables.

A typical day’s intake on the MIND diet might include three servings of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, wheat bread), a salad and another vegetable, a glass of wine, nuts for a snack, and blueberries or strawberries. Chicken or fish and beans are to be consumed every other day. Foods like butter, cheese, red meat, pastries, sweets and fried or processed foods are avoided.

Overall, the MIND diet emphasizes natural, plant-based foods and limits intake of animal foods and saturated fats. However, it specifies adding berries and green, leafy vegetables.

Rush researchers looked at food intake data from 900 older Americans already participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which began in 1997. Over a five-year period, the team collected data on incidences of Alzheimer’s.

Even when the MIND diet was only moderately followed, it still reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by 35%. Moderate adherence to the Mediterranean and DASH diets had only negligible protective benefits, according to study authors.

We know lots of factors, including genetics, environment and lifestyle, may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. The MIND diet may help reduce risks.

Skin Nutrition

Can what you eat really improve your skin? Absolutely. And despite the marketing, it’s much better to feed our skin from the inside (from food) than to slather on moisturizers and peels with the same nutrients.

Think about this: We have 19 million cells per inch of skin. Our skin is the body’s first line of defense, a barrier that blocks other organs from environmental hazards. And like all organs, the skin needs nutrients to stay strong and do its job.

There is no single nutrient that can maintain healthy skin. We need a balanced diet composed of a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, olive oil, nuts and seeds. All are important for skin health.

Start with vitamin A. The beta carotene in vitamin A plays an important role in repairing skin tissue and replacing cells that contribute to the structure of the skin. It can help prevent dry, rough skin, a sign of deficiency. Choose foods that are orange and red – cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, tomatoes and red bell peppers.

Add vitamin E. It absorbs energy from ultraviolet light and helps prevent sun damage. It also helps with inflammation in the skin. Snack on almonds, asparagus, avocado, greens, mango, peanuts, pumpkin and spinach.

Vitamin C can also help your skin health. It’s a powerful antioxidant that protects skin cells by warding off free radicals from UV rays. It’s needed for collagen synthesis wound healing. The best sources are berries, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, green and red bell pepper, strawberries and oranges.

For those fine lines and wrinkles, think collagen, a type of protein that makes up to 80% of the skin. Protein-rich foods encourage collagen production. Good sources of protein are beans, beef, bone broth, chickpeas, eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes, nuts, poultry and seafood.

If your skin is flaky or dry, you may be dehydrated. Drinking more water helps keep your skin healthy. Healthy adults need at least eight glasses a day, perhaps more.

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for maintaining skin function, especially in the top outer layer of skin. Omega-3s can also protect against sun-damaged skin and aging. Good sources are chia seeds, flaxseeds, salmon, tuna, fortified eggs and walnuts.

The key for healthy skin is to eat a colorful diet – lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and water.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD.

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