You have probably been hearing since childhood, “Eat your greens!” Long touted for healthy heart benefits, leafy greens are getting noticed for a new reason. As it turns out, this age-old advice is truly great as leafy greens benefit our brains in addition to our bodies, keeping us young, helping with memory and even possibly staving off dementia.
Leafy greens come in a wide variety of vegetables so no, you don’t have to learn to love kale to get the benefits of these miracle foods. Lettuces, mustard greens, cabbage, Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, microgreens and even broccoli count among the list of the healthiest options for leafy greens. Kale makes the list too, so if you love it, keep eating! And you don’t need much either… less than two servings, or 1 cup, of leafy greens per day has shown to be effective brain foods.
One study published recently in Neurology found that seniors who had daily servings of leafy greens showed a slower rate of cognitive decline when compared to those who ate little or no greens. The study included 960 participants of the Memory and Aging Project whose average age was 81 and none of whom had dementia.
“To analyze the relationship between leafy greens and age-related cognitive changes, the researchers assigned each participant to one of five groups, according to the amount of greens eaten. Those who tended to eat the most greens comprised the top quintile, consuming, on average, about 1.3 servings per day. Those in the bottom quintile said they consume little or no greens. After about five years of follow-up/observation, “the rate of decline for [those] in the top quintile was about half the decline rate of those in the lowest quintile,” Morris says.
To put that in perspective, after five years, those who regularly consumed leafy greens had a mental edge that was the equivalent of 11 years! Those are pretty impressive results. Of course, dementia and cognitive decline are complex puzzles and there is not a “silver bullet” to stop them but since neither dementia nor other forms of cognitive decline are caused by one factor, it shows that diet and environment are important factors to consider.
If you’ve never been a fan of leafy greens, it never hurts to start incorporating some into your diet. Just as you get some immediate benefits from exercise, it’s possible to get immediate benefits from your diet as well. Rich in vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein and beta-carotene, leafy greens offer some great anti-aging benefits as well. Research as shown that these nutrients may help to protect the brain against inflammation, accumulation of toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid and neuronal damage and death. With so many health benefits, why not eat your greens?