“Eat your greens.” Long before nutritionists started telling us to eat the yellows, the oranges, the purples, the blues, and the reds, our moms were telling us to eat our greens. Why the greens? Was it because there were so many more of them than the rest of the colors? Did our Moms have a special attachment to the color we didn’t know about? Or maybe it was because our Moms were so smart from eating those greens themselves that they knew something we didn’t. Read on to find out what how green vegetables can make you eleven years smarter.
Brain Power and Greens
According to recent research, eating kale, spinach, mustard greens, and collards can help to prevent the decline of the brain’s mental ability. Martha Clare Morris, ScD, and assistant provost for community research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, acknowledges that this is good news for older people. “Losing one’s memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older,” she says. “Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, increasing consumption of leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”
Beta Carotene, Vitamin K, and Lutein
A study following 950 people for an average of five years showed that those who ate one to two servings of leafy greens per day had mental powers comparable to someone eleven years younger who ate none. When it comes to maintenance of a healthy brain, lutein, beta carotene, and vitamin K topped the list. Morris explained, “Our study identified some very novel associations. No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein.” She goes on to cite evident that “eating green leafy vegetables and other food rich in vitamin K, lutein, and beta carotene can help to keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning.”
The MIND diet
The MIND diet combines elements of both DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet to reduce the risk of heart attack, hypertension, and stroke. However, some researchers have found that it may provide protection against mental decline as well. Research shows that followers of the new diet were able to lower the risk of aD by 35 to 53%. The MIND diet has 15 dietary components including ten “brain healthy” food groups and five unhealthy groups. Nuts, berries, green leafy and other vegetables, beans, fish, whole grains, poultry, fish, olive oil and wine comprise the healthy groups, while the five unhealthy groups are represented by stick margarine and butter, red meats, sweets and pastries, fried and fast food, and cheese. As for fruits, berries are the only ones to specifically make the MIND list. Morris says, “Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protection the brain.’ Strawberries have also been known to perform well in studies of food on mental function.
Morris concludes, “One of the more exciting things is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction in their risk for aD. I was so very pleased to see the outcome we got from the new diet.”
How are you filling your head? Let us know what you’re putting in your mouth to boost your brain power.