Want another great reason to eat healthy? The food choices you make daily might lower your odds of getting Alzheimer’s disease, some scientists say.

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Researchers have found that people who stuck to a diet that included foods like berries, leafy greens, and fish had a major drop in their risk for the memory-sapping disorder, which affects more than 5 million Americans over age 65.

The eating plan is called the MIND diet. Here’s how it works.

Brain-Friendly Foods
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s similar to two other healthy meal plans: the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.

But the MIND approach “specifically includes foods and nutrients that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain, such as berries,” says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical Center.

You eat things from these 10 food groups:
Green leafy vegetables (like spinach and salad greens): At least six servings a week
Other vegetables: At least one a day
Nuts: Five servings a week
Berries: Two or more servings a week
Beans: At least three servings a week
Whole grains: Three or more servings a day
Fish: Once a week
Poultry (like chicken or turkey): Two times a week
Olive oil: Use it as your main cooking oil.
Wine: One glass a day

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You avoid:

Red meat: Less than four servings a week
Butter and margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily
Cheese: Less than one serving a week
Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week
Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week

The Benefits
One study showed that people who stuck to the MIND diet lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 54%. That’s big. But maybe even more importantly, researchers found that adults who followed the diet only part of the time still cut their risk of the disease by about 35%.

Even if you don’t have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or other risk factors, you may still want to try this eating plan. It focuses on nutritious whole foods, so “it’s not just good for your brain. It’s good your heart and overall health, too,” says Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD. He is the chairman and CEO of the Memosyn Neurology Institute.
Last, understand that even though diet plays a big role, “it’s only one aspect of Alzheimer’s disease,” Fotuhi says. So get regular exercise and manage your stress to lower your risk even more, he says.

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