Culinary Medicine: MIND Diet

Culinary Medicine is using food to cure and prevent chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s. We have been talking about Culinary Medicine for several weeks as part of an in-depth health education series. What you eat affects the health of your brain and eating the right things can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Jennifer Bolton, a registered dietitian at Project Wellness 365, and professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver talked to us about the MIND diet. The MIND diet combines two popular nutrition plans: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

The MIND diet includes 10 brain healthy food groups that a person should eat and five food groups to avoid.

Foods to eat include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables: Aim for six or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens, and salads.
  • All other vegetables: Try to eat another vegetable in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once a day. It is best to choose non-starchy vegetables because they have a lot of nutrients with a low number of calories.
  • Berries: Eat berries at least twice a week.
  • Nuts: Try to get five servings of nuts or more each week.
  • Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
  • Whole grains: Aim for at least three servings daily. Foods like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread.
  • Fish: Eat fish at least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Beans: Include beans in at least four meals every week. This includes all beans, lentils, and soybeans.
  • Poultry: Try to eat chicken or turkey (not fried) at least twice a week.
  • Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily.

If you are unable to consume the targeted amount of servings, don’t quit the MIND diet, following it even a moderate amount is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Food groups to limit or avoid: Red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, fried foods and fast food. Researchers encourage limiting your consumption of these foods because they contain saturated fats and trans fats. Studies have found that trans fats are clearly associated with all sorts of diseases, including heart disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Click here for more details on the MIND diet.

Dr. Bolton shared a few recipes that follow the MIND diet, including a dessert!

Blueberry-Banana Oat Muffins

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger, cinnamon and salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 stick melted butter, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup each sour cream and mashed bananas, 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla; whisk into the flour mixture, then stir in 1 cup blueberries. Divide among 12 lined muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees F until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.


Berry Almond Smoothie

½ cup frozen sliced banana

½ cup plain unsweetened almond milk

5 tablespoons sliced almonds, divided

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom

⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup blueberries

1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes

Blend raspberries, banana, almond milk, 3 tablespoons almonds, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla in a blender until very smooth.

Pour the smoothie into a bowl and top with blueberries, the remaining 2 tablespoons almonds and coconut.


Blackberry-Banana “Nice Cream”

Pulse 2 frozen sliced bananas, 1 cup frozen blackberries and 1 tablespoon maple syrup in a food processor until crumbly, then process, scraping the bowl as needed, until smooth.


We cooked these recipes and all the recipes for our series on Culinary Medicine at the Cook Street School of Culinary Arts in Denver. The school was founded in 1999 and offers an accelerated professional training program for students seeking intensive study in food and wine. There are also recreational classes offered year-round for amateur cooks, and food and wine enthusiasts, to expand their abilities in the kitchen. For more on Cook Street, click here.