Healthy fats and fresh fruits and vegetables are cornerstones of the DASH, MIND and Mediterranean diets. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Searching for the best diets to help prevent health problems, or even help fight existing conditions?

It can get overwhelming and confusing out there, with the mountains of information to sift through.

Here are three top options, backed by science:

DASH diet

The DASH diet—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—focuses on specific dietary strategies to lower blood pressure naturally.

The diet incorporates foods that promote a healthy balance of certain minerals—namely, less sodium (less than 2,300 milligrams per day) and more potassium, magnesium and calcium.

It recommends cutting down on saturated fats and sugars, while increasing fiber.

Some studies have shown blood pressure improvements on this diet in just two weeks. Another bonus for some: lower levels of LDL cholesterol, which is the bad kind.

To hit daily nutrient goals, the DASH recommendations for a 2,000-calorie diet include:

  • 6 to 8 ounces of whole grains
  • 2 to 3 cups of vegetables
  • 2 to 3 cups of fruit
  • 2 to 3 cups of low-fat dairy
  • 6 ounces lean meats, poultry or fish
  • 4 to 5 ounces of nuts, seeds or legumes weekly
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of fats and oils
  • Less than 5 servings (60 calories each) of sweets and added sugars weekly

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet focuses on the cuisine of populations living near the Mediterranean Sea.

Numerous studies have shown how these groups benefit from less incidence of heart disease and stroke, as well as lower likelihood of developing certain cancers, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

These potential benefits are tied to the diet’s anti-inflammatory properties. The diet focuses heavily on plant-based foods and spices, seafood, and healthy oils found in nuts and olive oil.

The Mediterranean diet includes:

  • Olive oil as a main cooking oil (4 tablespoons per day)
  • 2 cups of vegetables (at least 1 cup raw or as a salad)
  • 1 to 2 cups of fruit
  • Less than 3 to 5 ounces of red meat per day (chicken or turkey preferred)
  • Less than 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or cream per day
  • Less than 1 sweetened beverage per day
  • 6-ounce glass of wine daily
  • 1/2 cup legumes (beans) at least three times per week
  • 3 to 5 ounces of fish at least three times per week
  • Less than three sweets per week
  • More than two servings sofrito (tomato-based sauce) per week

MIND diet

What do you get when you combine both diets? A powerhouse double-decker called the MIND diet.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

When put to the test for reduction of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, this hybrid diet showed great results, including a 7 1/2-year reduction in brain aging. Combined with the benefits of the original diets, this eating pattern can prove extremely beneficial for disease prevention.

Here’s the MIND diet breakdown:

10 brain-healthy foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables (more than 6 cups raw veggies per week)
  • Other vegetables (more than 1/2 cup per day)
  • Berries (1/2 cup twice per week)
  • Nuts (More than 5 ounces per week)
  • Olive oil (primary oil used)
  • Whole grains (more than 3 ounces per day)
  • Fish (3 ounces per week)
  • Beans (1/2 cup more than three times per week)
  • Poultry (3 ounces more than twice per week)
  • Wine (one 6-ounce glass per day)

5 brain-harmful foods to limit:

  • Butter (less than 1 tablespoon per day)
  • Cheese (less than 1 ounce per week)
  • Red meat (less than four 3-ounce servings per week)
  • Fast or fried foods (less than once per week)
  • Pastries and sweets (less than five servings per week)

The similar eating patterns across these diets can serve as a good start for simple diet modifications that can ultimately make a big difference in your health.