Being over 50 has its share of rewards from an overall life perspective mainly because we are presumably wiser than we used to be. But it comes with challenges too especially in the area of health. Specifically, when we reach 50, and more so after 60, it becomes increasingly hard to lose weight. I am dealing with this issue right now for the first time in my life. Through research and conversation with others, I’ve discovered that a healthy diet to lose weight is one that helps my brain to stay healthy as well. In fact, the concept of a healthy diet at this age should be to focus on your brain not your belly.
A good friend of mine’s mother has dementia. We’ve had many conversations about that as my Mom also had dementia and passed away in 2014 just months after her diagnosis. Recently Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver died after battling dementia. In fact, according to WebMD, deaths related to dementia have more than doubled in the past decade and it has become one of the leading causes of death overall. Dementia was the primary cause of death for over 260,000 people in 2017. 46% of those deaths were due to Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common cause of dementia.
Dementia is not the cause of death necessarily. But it does disable the brain and body from warding off other issues and illnesses such as pneumonia that can cause death. Dementia leads to extremely poor quality of life and therefore its something that we all should take heed to prevent. That is why a healthy diet at this age should focus on your brain not your belly.
Focus on Your Brain Not Your Belly
My friend whose Mom has dementia is consulting with a doctor that made him aware of the MIND Diet. The MIND Diet is designed to prevent dementia and loss of brain function as you age. The key points of this diet will be described below. With a few exceptions does the MIND Diet differ from the diet that my wife Shirley and I have been on for 2 years. So, that’s good. But there is one exception, caloric intake.
What is the MIND Diet?
It’s a focus on your brain not your belly way of eating. However, even though that’s not the primary purpose, this diet will also help you lose weight if you watch the quantity that you eat by limiting your daily caloric intake.
MIND stands for Mediterranean DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. DASH in turn stands for Dietary Approached to Stop Hypertension diet. Some big words that describe two diets that are considered amongst the healthiest.
The MIND Diet was developed by and written about in a study published in September of 2015 in Alzheimer's and Dementia by Martha Clare Morris, ScD, and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Studies have shown that the Mind Diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer's by 53%. Even for those people that only moderately followed the diet had their risk lowered by 35%. Another study in 2018 showed that eating this way lowered the risk of Parkinson's disease.
The Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, and U.S. News and World Report all have endorsed this diet and way of eating. This diet has also shown the benefits of diminishing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease in general. As well, it can improve blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity. The bottom line is that this is a very healthy diet for both the brain and the body.
To dive deeper and read more on how this diet was developed visit everydayhealth.com.
To be successful on this diet you need only follow some very simple rules.
- Eat more of the foods it recommends
- Eat less of the foods it recommends that you limit
- Limit your daily caloric intake (more on that below)
10 Foods the MIND Diet Encourages
Green, Leafy Vegetables
Aim for 6 or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens, and salads.
Eat another vegetable other than a green, leafy vegetable once a day. Vegetables low in starch are the best choice as they are high in nutrients and low in calories.
Eat berries twice a week. This includes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries which all have antioxidant benefits.
Eat nuts 5 times a week. The type of nuts you eat can vary so you get a wide variety of nutrients.
The diet calls for using olive oil as your main cooking oil. We at LSO50 recommend extra virgin olive oil.
Aim for 3 servings per day. Examples of whole-grain foods are oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and 100% whole-wheat bread.
Eat fish at least once a week. Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel are best as they have a high amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Include beans in at least four meals a week. Lentils, soybeans, and other types of beans as well.
Eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Fried chicken is discouraged. Note for Vegetarians- Replace this with other protein-rich foods.
One glass daily is encouraged. Both red and white wine may benefit the brain. However, much research has focused on the benefit of resveratrol found in red wine, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Notes about the 10 Foods the MIND Diet Encourages
If you cannot eat all these foods every week, and go on vacation and veer off this diet, don’t quit. Even a moderate change in your diet toward the MIND Diet is helping you focus on your brain not your belly.
You can eat more than just these foods. However, try to stay within your daily calorie goal.
5 Foods to Avoid on the MIND Diet
Butter and Margarine
Try to eat as little as possible with a limit of 1 tablespoon a day.
Limit cheese to one serving a week
Aim for no more than 3 servings a week. This includes beef, lamb, pork, and products main from these meats. We at LSO50 encourage you to stop eating red meat altogether.
Eliminate fried food from your diet entirely. If you must, have it just once a week.
Pastries and Sweets
This should go without saying. The high content of sugar in these foods is not good for a variety of reasons including gut health and elimination of parasites. But if you must, the MIND Diet recommends these foods no more than 4 times a week.
Notes about the Foods to Avoid
The Foods to Avoid listed above contain saturated and trans fats. Trans fats are associated with all sorts of diseases including heart disease and Alzheimer's. There is debate on the effects of saturated fats. However, there is evidence that eaten in excess, saturated fats are associated with poor brain health.
To discover more about the MIND Diet and get some helpful recipes...
How Many Calories a Day?
The MIND Diet in terms of the foods it recommends and discourages is a fairly simple diet to follow. But now comes the hard part, at least for me, counting calories. One of the reasons I find this part of a diet difficult is that there is a wide variance in the recommended amount of daily calories for women and men. And, most recommendations don't take into account your activity level, body type, current weight, and if you are trying to maintain or lose weight. Those variables will alter the optimal daily caloric intake for each person. But we have to figure this out in order to truly focus on your brain not your belly.
In the table below you see recommendations of daily calorie intake from Health.gov and VeryWellFit.com. They do take into consideration one's activity level but not height, current or beginning weight, nor goals. Goals such as maintain weight, lose weight, or lose weight quickly.
|Health.gov||Age||Inactive||Moderately Active||Active||Inactive||Moderately Active||Active|
|VeryWellFit.com||50+||1,600||1,800||2,000 to 2,200||2,000||2,200 to 2,400||2,400 to 2,800|
On the other hand, healthline.com does consider the factors of your existing body condition (height and weight) as well as what you might be trying to achieve (maintenance of existing body weight or to lose weight). To demonstrate the calculator that healthline.com has on its website, I plugged in some arbitrary numbers for both a woman and a man.
|Age||Height||Weight||Lifestyle||Maintain Weight||Lose Weight||Lose Weight Fast|
As you can see, when you use more variables there is a wider variance of the suggested daily caloric intake depending on your existing body type and your goals. There is up to nearly a 1,000 calorie difference for both women and men if you are trying to maintain your weight versus lose weight fast.
This makes far more sense to me. If you're trying to lose weight you should eat fewer calories than someone trying to maintain their weight. And, you need to factor in your activity level because you should eat more calories if you are more active. In fact up to 900 more for women and 1,000 more for men. OK, now we're getting somewhere.
Go to this calculator and plug in your own age, height, weight, activity level, and goal. Then you'll have a daily calorie goal that makes sense for you! I did that and found that I should be eating 1,961 calories a day because I am active and I'm trying to lose weight fast. Perfect! Thank you, healthline.com.
Now We Have to Count Our Calories
There's just one last challenge in order to feed our brain correctly and either maintain or lose weight. This will be the final key to truly focus on your brain not your belly. We have to count our calories and make sure we are getting enough each day for our muscle growth and to maintain our energy level. But, at the same time, not too many so that we start putting on pounds.
I’ve only counted calories once in my life and found it tedious at best. I value eating the right foods and have no problem giving up certain types of food. But I’m not very good at monitoring the quantity of food that I eat, nor the calories contained in my meals. However, I’ve come to realize that both of those factors are key to me losing weight as I feed my brain the right foods as well. So, calorie counting I will do.
Healthline.com to the rescue once again. They have a list of The 5 Best Calorie Counter Websites and Apps. Shirley and I prefer to use a phone app because our phones are with us all the time while our desktop computers sit in our home offices. It's way easier.
We have been using MyFitnessPal from Under Armour which happens to be the #1 calorie counting phone app recommended by healthline.com. Once again, perfect! Here's why we like this app.
- You can set your personal goals by inputting your existing weight and a weight loss goal.
- You can add calories burned from exercise such as walks, running, weight training, etc. This will add calories to your daily baseline caloric goal because you need more calories if you are active. Yeah, a calorie counter that makes sense!
- And, a really cool feature is that you can scan the UPC code on any food product package, and MyFitnessPal stores that information. It will have the calorie count per serving and you simply change the serving size according to how much you've eaten of that particular food item. Easy!
The MIND Diet in Review
- It's simple. It gives you recommendations on the foods you should eat more of, and the foods you should avoid.
- It's not super strict. If you want to eat fried chicken once a month, go for it. Just also keep eating the food that is good for your brain.
- The most difficult part is counting calories. You don't want to gain 20 pounds while helping your brain and preventing dementia. You want to focus on your brain not your belly for sure. But you don't want to ignore your belly altogether.
Shirley and I are following the MIND Diet as of the date of this post. As I've mentioned, it is not a major change from the way we have been eating for over 2 years now with the exception of counting calories. Watching my daily caloric intake may be the key to me getting back to my ideal weight.
We started on September 2nd. In the first 5 days, I lost 5 pounds. I know that seems like a lot but I have about 25 pounds to lose and I'm sure as I go along that will slow down a bit. I'll add to this post every few weeks and keep you up to date on my progress. Good luck with this diet. It is obviously very beneficial to focus on your brain not your belly to protect your mind while at the same time achieving your healthy weight.