Tucson Retirement Community Focuses on Diet to Support Brain Health
A Research-Backed Dining Program Helps Support Resident’s Cognitive Health
The diet industry in the United States makes billions of dollars each year. Most of that industry is focused on weight loss. But what if the way we eat could also affect the health of our brains?
That’s exactly what researchers at Rush University Medical Center believed a few years ago. So they set out to prove it by designing and testing a diet to help support brain health—the MIND diet.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and it affects more than 40 million people globally. Rates are highest in North America and northern Europe, while rates in Asia and the Mediterranean region are lower. Alzheimer’s rates are noticeably low in Japan and in Italy, and in 2013, researchers in China found that the Japanese and Mediterranean diets may be part of the reason. Both the Japanese and Mediterranean diets focus on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans and fish, and include little red meat or processed, sugary food.
Taking note, the researchers at Rush designed the aptly-named MIND diet.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. However, the MIND diet also makes a few research-backed inclusions of foods and nutrients that data already shows to be good for the brain, such as berries.
The Rush team studied just under 1,000 people over the course of a decade. The researchers found that people who followed their particular set of dietary guidelines reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53 percent. Even people who followed the guidelines only part of the time reduced their risk by 35 percent.
Now, Copper Canyon Assisted Living and Memory Care in Tucson, Arizona, uses the MIND diet in its unique 24/7 dining program. At Copper Canyon, everything from the architecture, to the activities calendar, to the staffing, to the dining program is designed to support the community’s memory care residents. The goal is that specialized memory care programming and environmental factors will promote brain health and stave off memory issues for as long as possible.
Copper Canyon’s dining program specifically includes the MIND diet’s 10 recommended food groups:
Green leafy vegetables (like spinach and salad greens) – at least six servings a week
Other vegetables – at least once 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 – used as a main cooking oil
The community’s chef makes sure to limit the following foods, as recommended by the MIND diet:
Red meat – less than four servings a week
Butter and margarine – less than a table spoon 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
And Copper Canyon doesn’t just stop at the types of foods served. Residents can enjoy a healthy meal at any time of day, thanks to the community’s 24/7 dining program. Entrees are served on colored plates to stimulate appetite, and a server greets each resident individually with multiple daily menu choices.
The MIND diet is just one of the ways Copper Canyon supports its residents’ cognitive health and quality of life. The community also boasts a certified Life Enrichment Director, who leads the community in engaging daily activities, weekly on-site social events, and fun cultural excursions as part of a researched-backed health and wellness program.