New research is supporting what your mother always said: Green vegetables are good for you. It turns out that people who incorporate more leafy green vegetables into their diet on a daily basis tend to have sharper, more agile minds as they age.
Researchers exploring the link between diet and late-age brain health found that people who mostly or totally abstained from leafy green vegetables had far worse brain function than those who ate green in abundance. The data shows that people who chow down on leafy greens multiple times per day can knock off more than a decade in terms of brain function into old age. That means that your brain could look like a 64 year olds under an MRI scanner rather than your chronological, true age of 75.
These findings were recently published in the respected journal Neurology to knowing nods of approval from dietician everywhere. It could be, though, that those who are already healthy are more prone to select green leafy vegetables over greasy potato chips anywhere; this study merely posits a correlation between eating greens daily and better cognition function into old age. Correlation isn’t necessarily causality.
That said, there is mounting evidence that diet and lifestyle do interact in synergistic ways and could help counteract aging in the brain. The best green leafy vegetables tend to be spinach and kale: These vegetables have the most nutrients and appear to have the most antioxidant power.
A big part of the aging process occurs due to free radicals, which contain an unpaired (and, therefore, dangerous) valence electron. When you eat more antioxidant-rich foods, you’re giving your body the ability to combat free-radical damage and potentially allowing your body and mind to thrive more.
Foods like spinach and kale are also rich in vitamin K as well as lutein, an antioxidant. Eating the entire vegetable as opposed to vitamin extracts is also a good idea, according to nutritionists. The balance of nutrients that you find in a food is almost always preferable to supplements because the former has the precise combination of nutrients that bolster bioavailability, or absorption by the body.
To be in the 80th percentile of leafy green vegetable consumption, you only need to eat a half cup of spinach or collards a day. At that level you’re getting the benefits to your brain that can forestall signs of aging for awhile.