MIND Diet Ranked Among Best in 2024

Brain-friendly diet featured in 10 categories on ​​​​​​​U.S. News’ ‘Best Diets’ list
Brain-healthy food

For the seventh consecutive year, a diet created, studied and reported on by researchers at RUSH has been ranked among the top five diets for 2024 in multiple categories by U.S. News & World Report. And along with the new ranking comes a new book — complete with recipes — honoring the architect of the approach to healthy eating.

In all, the MIND diet was ranked in 10 categories:

  • Best Diets Overall: No. 3
  • Best Family-Friendly Diets: No. 4
  • Best Diabetes Diets: No. 4
  • Best Diets for Healthy Eating: No. 4
  • Best Heart-Healthy Diets: No. 5
  • Best Diets for Bone and Joint Health: No. 5
  • Easiest Diets to Follow: No. 6
  • Best Plant-Based Diets: No. 7
  • Best Weight-Loss Diets: No. 20
  • Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets: No. 29

Now in its eighth year, the annual “Best Diets” list provides the facts about 35 chosen eating plans and ranks them on a range of levels, from their heart healthiness to their likelihood to help with weight loss. To create the annual rankings, U.S. News editors and reporters spend months winnowing potential additions to the diet roster and then mine medical journals, government reports and other resources to create in-depth profiles. Each profile explains how the diet works, whether its claims are substantiated, scrutinizes it for possible health risks and examines what it’s like to live on the diet — not just read about it.

Diet's impact on health

As the name suggests, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Both diets have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertensiondiabetesheart attack and stroke.

The late Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a RUSH nutritional epidemiologist, and colleagues developed the MIND diet based on information that has accrued from years of research about what foods and nutrients have good — and bad — effects on the functioning of the brain.

“The ease in following the MIND diet is rooted in its simplicity,” said Jennifer Ventrelle, a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the department of Preventive Medicine at RUSH. “It can be easy to lose motivation when expected to track calories, macronutrients, and every morsel of food consumed. The MIND diet invites tracking of only the 15 key foods linked to slower aging of the brain and helps people feel good about getting in the right foods instead of feeling guilty for occasional indulgences.

“The recommendation is to build your plate with leafy greens and other colorful vegetables for 50% of most meals, combined with lean protein such as poultry or fish and whole grains or beans and some healthy fats,” Ventrelle said. “If doing that most days, there’s room for the occasional sweets, red meat, and even a glass of wine.”

A wine and no cheese party

The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy groups — red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried foods.

To adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat the following:

  • Eat three servings (1/2 cup each) of whole grains.
  • Consume two servings of extra-virgin olive oil (1 Tablespoon each serving).
  • Eat one serving of green leafy vegetables and one other vegetable every day.
  • Snack most days on nuts (1 ounce) and berries (1/2 cup).
  • Have beans every other day or so (1/2 cup servings).
  • Eat poultry twice a week and fish (non-fried) once a week or more.

A person also must limit intake of the designated unhealthy foods as follows:

  • Butter to no more than 1 tablespoon a day
  • Sweets and pastries to no more than four a week
  • Red and processed meats to three 4-ounce servings a week
  • Whole fat cheese to two single-ounce servings
  • Fried foods to no more than once weekly

“The MIND diet has been shown to provide long-term benefits to brain health in different human studies across the globe where people were followed for a long time,” said Puja Agarwal, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at RUSH. “The MIND diet helps maintain cognitive and motor functions and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, disability, and depressive symptoms while also promoting overall health.”

“The results so far are encouraging that with a simple lifestyle modification like choosing your food wisely and eating a diet with more of the healthy components and less of the unhealthy components of the MIND diet, one can improve overall health and may slow brain aging,” Agarwal said. 

With few studies focusing on food and nutrition and the impact on brain health, Morris dedicated many years to research in this field and with colleagues developed the MIND diet. With a focus on the health of the aging brain, Morris created a book of recipes: The Official MIND Diet: A Scientifically Based Program to Lose Weight and Prevent. It incorporates foods from the MIND diet — in partnership with her daughter, Laura Morris, a professional chef. On December 26, 2023, a second edition of the book was released with updates on the science behind the diet, as well as additional recipes. The second edition is dedicated to the memory of Martha Clare Morris.

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