Healthy Tahoe: What you eat matters for preventing memory loss

Becky Espinel, RDN

More than 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That averages about one in nine people. Depending on genetics and health conditions, a person may have a greater risk of developing some kinds of dementia, or memory loss. While there is no cure, there have been studies that show key lifestyle changes may decrease the risk of having dementia.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet — a diet that prioritizes plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices — and the Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension diet. 

Following the MIND Diet ensures your brain gets the proper nutrients to work at its best. Foods are categorized into what should be eaten daily, weekly, and which foods can have a negative effect on cognitive health. The foods that should be consumed or restricted are broken down into 15 components: 10 food groups that promote brain health and five food groups that are considered “brainless foods.” Daily foods include green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Weekly foods include berries and seafood. Foods that may have a negative impact on cognitive health include fried foods and fast food.

The pioneering MIND Diet study followed more than 960 participants without known dementia. The participants completed annual evaluations, cognitive tests, and food frequency questionnaires; they were then given a MIND diet score. Those with a higher MIND Diet score had better thinking and memory skills.  

The MIND Diet may be a helpful tool for those with a known family history of dementia. With lifestyle changes, we have the opportunity to decrease our risk of Alzhimer’s and live long, healthy lives. Though lifestyle changes can feel daunting, the MIND diet tied for third place for easiest diet to follow, according to US News & World Report.  

Talk to your doctor to determine if you are at risk for cognitive loss over time and if the MIND Diet is right for your health. A dietitian can help you create a plan to implement the MIND Diet, which can support your brain health and make a big difference for your overall health in the long run.

Becky Espinel is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Barton Nutrition. Becky will host a free Wellness Webinar, “The MIND Diet and Brain Health” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at For more information, call 530-543-5825.

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