With May designated as National Mediterranean Diet month, Flourish with Food began focusing on the Med approach’s components a year ago. Flourish with Food this month introduces the MIND approach and will show, going forward, how its guidance complements the Mediterranean eating pattern. 

The MIND approach is based on research, published in 2015, conducted at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. (https://www.rush.edu/news/new-mind-diet-may-significantly-protect-against-alzheimers-disease

The researchers looked at what foods and nutrients affect brain functioning over time. In other words, which foods are associated with slowing the cognitive changes people often experience as they get older. The results highlighted foods which have desirable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties. Foods that have the potential to slow the progression of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The MIND approach centers on 10 “brain healthy” foods: berries, green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. The approach also highlights 5 food groups to limit: red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries/sweets, and fried/fast food. Eating frequency for each food group is helpfully specified.

June’s MIND approach feature is berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries - delicious, colorful, versatile fruits.  The MIND approach advises 2 or more servings of berries a week. Although not a sweet summer fruit, cranberries fall into this group.

Berries are super rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Berries are good sources of vitamins C, potassium and fiber, all while being fat-free, sodium-free  and low in calories.

Fresh berries are easily available and moderately priced from April to October. Frozen and dried berries are available all year. Dried versus freeze dried berries?  Dried has some water removed, making the fruit chewy.  Freeze dried contains little-to-no moisture, giving the berry a crunchy texture. 

Fresh berries need to be washed just before using. I prefer to put berries in a small bowl, cover with water, swish around and drain in a colander.  Sometimes, a second water rinse is necessary.

Storage tips for fresh berries from www.fruitsandveggies.org

  • Blueberries - refrigerate 10-14 days
  • Strawberries - refrigerate 1-3 days
  • Raspberries - refrigerate 1-2 days
  • Blackberries - refrigerate 3-6 days

Minimal fuss ideas:

  • Include blueberries and green olives in a green salad for a sweet/salt combo taste
  • Add fresh, frozen or dried berries to cooking oatmeal
  • Blend berries, yogurt, milk and/or orange juice for a no-recipe smoothie
  • Bring a small bowl of berries for a car snack
  • Layer yogurt, berries, granola or Grape Nuts for a snack or breakfast
  • Lightly drizzle chocolate sauce over a bowl of mixed berries and sprinkle with chopped walnuts
  • Mix blueberries, strawberries or raspberries and apple for a July 4th dish; garnish with fresh basil
  • Arrange berries, walnuts and Swiss cheese squares on a snack board

Check out www.fruitsandveggies.org for many creative recipe using berries.

Quick Dark Cocoa Sauce

2/3 c. sugar

2/3 c. low-fat milk 

½ c. cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ c. chocolate chips 

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth.  Cool and refrigerate unused sauce.

Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2001

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.