Foods Common to Both the MIND Diet and the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet, or Keto Diet, has grown in popularity over the last few years. This high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet works by producing a fasting-like effect, bringing the body into a state of ketosis, leading to the burning of fat instead of carbs. Medically, the Keto diet has been used as therapy for epilepsy, but more recently the diet has been examined for the possibility of preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. There is some evidence for it, there some evidence against it, and the jury is still out.
However, the Keto diet has gained in popularity because of the possible health benefits that people can achieve by following this diet. The Keto diet restricts to 25-50 net carbs a day, which for most of us means a drastic reduction in the amount of sugar and carbohydrates we ingest. While controversial, there is some evidence to suggest Keto diet can improve your blood pressures, blood sugar, reduce your appetite, improve your cholesterol, and boost weight loss.
The MIND Diet is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet (consisting of foods typically eaten by people living in the Mediterranean region) and the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The MIND Diet is largely plant-based, rich in good fats (omega-3s), low in sugar and low on processed foods. A substantial amount of scientific evidence from around the world has established its benefits on memory and cognition. Compared to other diets, people who follow the MIND diet have been found to perform better on memory tests, be less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and have bigger brains!
A few months ago, a patient in HABIT asked me whether the MIND diet was compatible with the Keto diet. I had no idea, as I knew nothing about the Keto diet.
Fast forward to today. I have been on the Keto diet for 6 weeks. I can’t say I’ve lost much weight, and my husband has noticed an uptick in my irritability, so I may not be on this diet for much longer. Plus, Christmas is around the corner. Either way, I know more now about the Keto diet, and to answer that patient’s question, from my personal experience, I believe there is enough overlap between Keto and the MIND diet to attempt to follow both.
Here are the key foods that are acceptable in both diets:
Foods high in good, non-saturated fats
- Nuts (e.g., pecan, brazil, walnut, macadamia, hazelnuts, peanut, pine)
- Seeds (chia, flaxseed, hemp, sesame)
- Fish (e.g., Salmon), Poultry
- Plant-based oils (like olive oil)
- Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, and Brussel sprouts
- Other vegetables low in carbs like asparagus, zucchini, celery, cucumber, green beans, eggplant, olives, green peppers, and tomatoes (technically a fruit)
- High in anti-oxidants that don’t spike your blood sugar include berries (e.g., blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries) and avocados
- Low-carb fruits include cantaloupe, watermelon, lemons, peaches
For me, the key difference between the Keto and MIND diet is how restrictive they are (or are not). Keto Diet is very strict. Followers often track their intake of net carbs and protein, and fat and the carbs are very limited. If you “cheat” on the keto diet, your body falls out of ketosis, and it could take several days to get back into the state of ketosis again. Keto also works best when combined with low intensity exercise and intermittent fasting (e.g., fasting for 16 hours a day).
The MIND Diet, on the other hand, is more of a lifestyle diet. You do your best to substitute the “foods to avoid” (processed foods, red meat, sweets) with the “good foods” we mentioned above. In my personal opinion and experience, the MIND and Mediterranean Diets are much easier to follow and adhere to. Keto is already restrictive, and following both Keto and MIND at the same time would be more than I could manage! It's also unclear what the additional health benefits (or costs) would be of combining the two.
I think I will start the Keto diet back up again after the holiday season, and no surprise here – I’ll make it a New Year’s resolution to lose weight!
Here are some links to research articles if you want to learn more:
https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/16/3892/htm?sfns=mo (See Table 2 for summary of studies)
Have you tried either of these diets, other diets, or eating lifestyle changes? What did you think? Let us know what works for you!