One Serving Of Leafy Greens Per Day Slows Cognitive Decline
While it’s normal for cognitive abilities to decline naturally as we age, a new study from the American Academy of Neurology shows that eating just one serving of leafy greens every day can significantly help with preserving memory and thinking skills as we grow older.
The number of seniors with dementia is exploding as the baby boomer generation ages into their golden years. In fact, Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Prevention of cognitive decline – the defining feature of dementia – and promotion of neurological health is more important than ever.
Eating Away At Cognitive Decline
The study, in which researchers gave 960 older adults food questionnaires and annual standardized tests for cognitive ability — episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability and perceptual speed — suggests that people who ate at least one serving of leafy green vegetables per day had a slower rate of decline on memory and thinking skills than those who rarely or never ate them. The researchers defined a serving of leafy greens as a half cup of either spinach, kale or collards; or one cup of lettuce.
It also showed that seniors who ate leafy greens every day were the equivalent of 11 years younger cognitively on average compared to those who didn’t. The researchers suggest this may be due to the neuroprotective actions of lutein, folate, carotene, and phylloquinone found in green vegetables.
The subjects, who were an average of 81 years old at the start of the study, were followed for almost five years. The improvement in neurological function remained even after controlling for other factors that could affect brain health, such as seafood and alcohol consumption, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, education level and amount of physical and cognitive activities.
The Bottom Line
Green leafy vegetables are packed with brain healthy nutrients, and they provide both immediate and long-term benefits.
Eating leafy greens daily — along with regular exercise and a diet that minimizes “brain unhealthy” foods like red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried food — should probably be considered a keystone habit. What you eat matters!