The Kensington Senior Living recently hosted the event “The Mind Diet: Nourish Your Brain with Chef Annie Fenn, MD” to educate caregivers and their loved ones on brain health and nutrition.
Our expert guest was Dr. Annie Fenn, physician, author, and culinary instructor behind the website Brain Health Kitchen, who’s worked with Kensington Senior Living in the past to host educational webinars on brain health, cooking, and nutrition.
Her most recent webinar discussed how to take better care of brain health by following the MIND diet, a new breakthrough diet that combines the Mediterranean diet with the popular DASH diet.
In this article, we’ll summarize the key points from Dr. Annie Fenn’s MIND diet webinar.
Be sure to stay updated on all of Kensington’s educational webinars by checking out our events page.
The MIND diet is a dietary pattern that combines the popular Mediterranean diet with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
The acronym MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.”
RUSH University developed the MIND diet in 2015 to see if a new diet could slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia — it proved to be highly successful.
A recent study of 2,092 participants found that higher MIND diet scores were associated with better cognitive function and a slower cognitive decline for seniors aged 65 and older.
The MIND diet emphasizes 10 brain-healthy food groups, such as leafy greens, berries, and vegetables, and discourages six unhealthy foods, such as red meats, butter, and fried and processed foods.
Like the DASH diet, which encourages fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to reduce sodium, the MIND diet also incorporates more healthy foods that have been proven to improve brain function and lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The MIND diet encourages people to primarily eat foods from its approved list of the 10 brain health foods, which include:
- Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, spinach, and cabbage, because of their vitamin K, folate, and beta-carotene
- Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, because of their antioxidants to lower cognitive decline
- Nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, and almonds because of their antioxidants and vitamin E
- Whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice, for high fiber and minerals
- Beans, such as lentils, black beans, and chickpeas, for their folate, fiber, and magnesium
- Fish, such as salmon, cod, and tuna, for their omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA for improved brain function
- Poultry and lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, and vegetable protein
- Olive oil for polyphenols and vitamin E
- Wine, in moderation and no more than five ounces a day for the antioxidant resveratrol
- Other vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, artichokes, green beans, etc., for their general fiber, minerals, and vitamins
The MIND diet advises greatly reducing or eliminating the following six food groups, which primarily contain high-fat foods, processed foods, or high-sodium foods:
- Red meats, such as beef, pork, or lamb, contain a high amount of saturated fat, which has been linked to an increased risk of developing cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Butter and margarine, which contain high amounts of saturated fats, and trans fats (margarine)
- Cheese, which is high in saturated fat and sodium, contributes to weight gain, heart disease, and hypertension
- Pastries and sweets, which contain excessive amounts of sugar, which leads to inflammation and damage to the brain
- Fried food and fast food contains high amounts of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium
- Processed and packaged food, which has high levels of sodium, unhealthy fats, and added sugars, leads to inflammation in the body and damage to the brain
Our guest expert, Dr. Annie Fenn, recently published a new cookbook titled “The Brain Health Kitchen: Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Food” by Artisan Books, in 2023.
In her 400-page cookbook, Dr. Fenn includes over 100 recipes that incorporate the MIND diet’s brain-healthy foods into every meal of the day—including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts.
Readers will also enjoy learning about Dr. Fenn’s own personal journey that led her to develop this cookbook and become interested in brain health.
Like any good diet and cookbook, Dr. Fenn also includes practical strategies for creating and following through with the MIND diet plan, including how to pick the right meats and vegetables, choose the right fats to use, and choose the right beverages for maximum health benefits.
“The Brain Health Kitchen” cookbook is currently recommended by Kensington Senior Living as part of our ongoing educational series.
For more book suggestions, caregiver tips, and health tips, be sure to check out Kensington Konnect, which is an educational hub for caregivers that features book recommendations, recipes, and general caregiving advice.
In her book and demonstration, Dr. Fenn talks about easy tips for incorporating the MIND diet into your current diet.
Here are a few tips and simple swaps to make in your existing recipes to make them more MIND diet friendly:
- Use whole-grain flour instead of refined-grain flour for bread, pasta, rice, and other grains. Look for foods that are 100% whole grain
- Replace red meat entrees with fish or lean poultry
- Swap out butter for olive oil, especially for sauteing, baking, and cooking
- Instead of eating candy, eat berries or nuts as snacks
- Use less salt for seasoning and use more herbs and spices, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, paprika, cumin, and more
- Swap out sugary drinks for water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee
Follow these tips to help support your health and your loved one’s brain health, which can reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and prevent caregiver fatigue.
- Encourage a varied and balanced diet, including the 10 brain-healthy foods such as leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, and lean protein
- Make mealtimes enjoyable
- Serve smaller meals, but more frequently
- Make the foods easy to eat for seniors, such as chopping the food finer, or offering larger utensils for seniors who have difficulty eating
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Make note if your loved one’s appetite changes — it could be caused by certain medications that affect their sense of smell, appetite, or taste
- Stay hydrated — dehydration can cause cognitive impairment
- Seek professional guidance, such as attending Dr. Fenn’s event “The Mind Diet: Nourish Your Brain”
- Join a caregiver support group or find online resources, such as Kensington Konnect
- Stay updated with upcoming educational events aimed at caregivers by following Kensington’s event page
We are committed to helping caregivers and the people they support by providing an ongoing series of free, educational webinars.
Be sure to view our events page to register for upcoming classes, where we bring in the nation’s leading experts to discuss brain health, women’s health, and the latest advances in healthcare.
Our community features two neighborhoods, Haven and Connections, which specialize in memory care for people in all stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
We take nutrition seriously and feature all-day dining by our head chef who can accommodate your loved one’s specialty diets, whether it’s the MIND diet, pureed diet, or other dietary restrictions.
We Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
If you have any questions or would like more information about The Kensington’s community, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us. Our staff is here to support you and your loved one every step of the way.