By Caroline L. Young, MS, RDN, LD, RYT
One of the hottest and most current nutrition research topics is the MIND Diet. To learn more about it, I interviewed The Peanut Institute (TPI)’s Research Director Dr. Samara Sterling:
So, the MIND Diet is a fusion of both the Mediterranean and DASH diets, right? Is there more to it than that?
Dr. Sterling: That’s right. Well, the MIND diet is a dietary pattern that aims to prevent cognitive decline as we age. So, it takes foods from both the Mediterranean and DASH diets that are good for the brain—I like to call them “brain foods.” These are foods that are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like dark green leafy vegetables, berries, and peanuts.
What was the premise of the MIND Diet?
Dr. Sterling: In the early 2000’s researchers found that there were certain nutrients that were associated with brain health. The MIND diet emerged from a lot of that early research by Dr. Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist from Rush University. The idea was to choose foods that are rich in those nutrients and make them part of the MIND diet.
How do peanuts and peanut butter fit into the MIND Diet, and does the MIND Diet suggest a certain amount be eaten?
Dr. Sterling: Both peanuts and peanut butter are excellent sources of niacin and good sources of vitamin E. The MIND diet recommends eating 5 or more servings of nuts (including peanuts) each week. A safe suggestion would be to eat a handful of peanuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter almost every day, or better yet, every day.
What is your professional opinion on the nutritional quality of the MIND Diet?
Dr. Sterling: I think the reason we see such good results from research on the MIND diet is because it is a very nutrient-dense diet. If you look at the foods that are emphasized, you’ll see that most of them are plant foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are not only beneficial for brain, but for the entire body as well. So, adherence to the MIND diet can help a person get these and other nutrients in their diet.
Do you feel like the MIND Diet is sustainable for people in the long-run? Why or why not?
Dr. Sterling: I think the diet is sustainable because it offers flexibility and variety. For example, you don’t have to eat berries everyday—just twice per week. And if you’re tired of strawberries, try blueberries. You also have a choice of whole grains to include each day. So, if you don’t want to eat brown rice one day, you can choose quinoa. I think the variety that the diet offers gives people a chance to feel that it can be done. It helps when a person feels in control and not too restricted. That way, it does not feel like drudgery and you can focus on attainable steps.
Can you explain a bit about new MIND Diet research in the pipeline?
Dr. Sterling: Right now, MIND researchers are doing a 3-year feeding study to test the effects of the diet on brain function in participants who are overweight and have poor diets. There will be also an element of weight loss in the intervention, and it’s expected that the MIND diet will perform better than weight loss alone.
Please add any other information about the MIND Diet you feel is valuable.
Dr. Sterling: It can be a daunting task for someone to figure out what diet they want to follow. What’s reassuring about the MIND diet is that the results are backed by solid science. I would say that a person would have nothing to lose by giving it a try. You’ll be benefiting your brain—and in many ways, your entire body as well.
 Morris, M.C., et al., MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement, 2015. 11(9): p. 1015-22.
 Morris, M.C., et al., Dietary niacin and the risk of incident Alzheimer's disease and of cognitive decline. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 2004. 75(8): p. 1093-9.
 Morris, M.C., et al., Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons. Arch Neurol, 2002. 59(7): p. 1125-32.
 Morris, M. MIND Diet Intervention and Cognitive Decline. 2018; Available from: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02817074?term=martha+morris&rank=1.