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Food For Your Match and Mind

Much like when you asked your buddy about his trip to Nationals last November, if you start a nutrition conversation with me, I may never stop talking. To salvage the valuable court time of my clubmates, here I’ll cover the most frequently asked nutrition question this time of year, “What is the best diet?”

The study of nutrition is like the sport of pickleball. It’s relatively new and evolving quickly. When it comes to choosing a diet, one thing is certain: most of us are better off following well-studied plans rather than dinking around with fads. Plans should:

• Be plant-strong and nutrient-dense; both are proven to prevent and treat some diseases.
• Not be too restrictive; followers should be able to get essential nutrients while meeting goals.
• Be easily adapted for vegans and people with food sensitivities.

A growing favorite among nutrition experts is the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or the MIND Diet. As the fancy name implies, it’s a combination of two time-tested plans, with a slant toward foods that support lifelong brain health. Evidence shows that long-term consumption of MIND foods can ward off cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia. These beneficial foods include the following.

Food / Recommended Servings / Great Choices

Leafy Green Veggies / 6+ per week / Kale, Spinach, Chard, Spring Mix, Beet Greens

Berries / 2+ per week / Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries

Nuts / 5 per week / Walnuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Almonds, Peanuts

Healthy Oils / As needed for cooking / Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Canola Oil

Beans and Legumes / 3+ per week / Lentils, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Peas

Who Grains / 3 per day / Oats, Whole Wheat, Brown Rice, Pinto Beans, Peas

Seafood / 1+ per week / Wild-Caught Salmon, Sardines, Mussels

Do these foods look familiar? They should. They’ve been involved in countless studies with promising results. Even if you don’t intend to follow a particular diet plan, consuming these foods regularly can help maintain and improve health. Filling up on these can also help people avoid less- nutrient-dense choices.

When it comes down to it, the “best” diet is a very personal choice. It’s the plan that works for the particular individuals, helping them reach their own goals while getting all of the nutrition needed for the body and mind.

Blueberry Vinaigrette Dressing
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar 1⁄4 cup honey
1⁄2 cup fresh blueberries

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until well-blended. Enjoy on leafy green salad. Makes about 8 servings: 100 kcals, 7g fat, 10g carbs, 0g protein, 0g fiber.

Brandi Givens has been a registered dietitian since 2010. Questions or comments can be posted to her blog at

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