We’ve heard it since we were kids—eat your veggies—but it’s not just something our parents used to tell us to trick us into cleaning our plate. Vegetables contain vital nutrients that our body needs, and part of that body includes one of our most important organs—the brain.
Studies have shown that the addition of certain vegetables and leafy greens into your diet is associated with a slower decline in brain function .
Leafy greens like kale, arugula, spinach, and collard greens are packed with lutein, vitamin K, nitrate, folate, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, and kaempferol, all nutrients associated with cognitive health.
A study done at the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston and Rush University in Chicago divided its subjects by leafy green consumption.
What did it find?
That those subjects that ranked highest in leafy green consumption had significantly slower cognitive decline, with them being, on average, the equivalent of 11 years younger than the subjects who didn’t eat leafy greens.
Whether you’re a vegetable lover or just the thought makes you go “yuck”, it’s critically important, especially as you age, to introduce leafy greens into your diet.
Vegetables don’t have to be boring
If you’re not already a vegetable person (and let’s face it, a lot of people aren’t) introducing new foods into your diet and routine might seem daunting. But eating your vegetables doesn’t have to mean eating a salad for every meal or gnawing on raw carrots and broccoli. There are myriad ways to get the vegetables and leafy greens you need to support cognitive health, while still enjoying your food.
How about instead of that burger or sandwich bun turn it into a leafy green wrap instead? Romaine, collard, or swiss chard leaves provide a delicious (and nutritious) foundation for chicken, pork, beef, and beyond.
Everyone likes smoothies, right? Well, toss some greens in that blender with your fruit. Most likely you won’t notice a veggie taste, and you’ll be getting those vital nutrients.
Making a tomato sauce or dreaming about some delicious fresh pesto? Toss in some swiss chard to that bolognese, or replace the basil in your pesto with kale. Both are delicious additions, and you just turned that sauce into something that supports your cognitive health.
If you’re nervous about cognitive decline as you age, now’s the time to take action. And a simple and effective first step? Throwing more leafy greens in that cart next time you go grocery shopping. Your brain will thank you later.