The importance of eating dark, leafy green vegetables is something you’ve heard me talk about before…
The chlorophyll that makes them green fights cancer, heals wounds and detoxifies the liver.
That’s why leafy greens are a central part of both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.
A Mediterranean-style diet is a great way to keep your heart healthy, your bones strong and your waistline trim. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) also depends on eating plenty of veggies.
But I think it’s fair to say that, as older adults, we fear a decline in our cognitive health more than anything.
The thought of deteriorating into dementia and Alzheimer’s and losing both our memories and our ability to function is terrifying.
As with many health issues, what we eat may very well be the deciding factor in whether we retain our mental faculties as we age.
In fact, there is a diet that was designed specifically with the aging brain in mind.
The MIND diet: the best of the best
The MIND diet combines the best of the Mediterranean diet, aimed at improving heart health, and the DASH diet, designed specifically to control hypertension.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It was designed by researchers who wanted to create a diet specifically meant to improve brain health.
The MIND diet consists of ten types of food. And heading the list is, you guessed it, those dark, leafy greens.
A twelve-year study involving over 1200 people found that the MIND diet beat the Mediterranean diet by 19% when it came to preventing mild cognitive impairment.
A more recent study has zeroed in on exactly which nutrients in those greens are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping your brain sharp.
6 “green” nutrients that fight cognitive decline
A 2018 study looked at 960 people ages 58 to 99, who had been part of the Memory and Aging Project at Rush University.
Martha Clare Morris, a professor of epidemiology at Rush, led a team of researchers who found that eating at least a serving a day of greens containing the following six nutrients could slow cognitive decline significantly.
- Phylloquinone (also known as vitamin K1) is the most common form of vitamin K and is found primarily in green leafy vegetables. A French study known as the CLIP study (Cognition and LIPophilic vitamins) determined that higher dietary phylloquinone was associated with stronger cognitive abilities among older adults.
- This antioxidant is usually associated with strengthening your vision. But in one study, middle-aged adults (age 25 to 45) who consumed more lutein via green vegetables had cognitive strengths similar to younger adults.
- The natural nitrates found in greens (not the chemical ones found in processed meats) are good for your muscles. Research also suggests that they increase blood flow to areas of the brain involved with executive functioning (planning and executing of tasks and decision making). The nitrates help you body create nitric oxide which is a boon for circulation.
- Dr. Morris of the Rush University study points out that a lack of folate in your diet could cause elevated levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that, at excessive levels, causes cognitive impairment by interfering with the way your brain uses oxygen.
- Vitamin E. People with Alzheimer’s disease are often found to have low levels of vitamin E in their cerebrospinal fluid. This has suggested to researchers that getting enough vitamin E could delay the onset of the disease.
- This flavonoid is thought to increase levels of glutathione, the master antioxidant that controls inflammation, including the inflammation that causes Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Salad “add-ins” that can boost your brain power
There are plenty of ways to build a salad. By including these “add-ins,” you can provide even more protection for your brain.
Avocados and eggs are rich in lutein. And eggs can help create a super salad with a 400 percent nutrient boost.
Broccoli, green beans and chicken are great sources of Vitamin K.
Beets can also do wonders for your nitric oxide production!
Adding nuts and seeds to your salad will enrich it with vitamin E.
For kaempferol and other flavonoids, apples are a great add-in.
And finally, here’s a list of 16 nitrate-rich vegetables that can be combined for a nutritious, delicious salad!
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
- Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline — Neurology
- Eating Leafy Greens Each Day Tied to Sharper Memory, Slower Decline — NPR
- Dietary Vitamin K Intake Is Associated with Cognition and Behaviour among Geriatric Patients: The CLIP Study — Nutrients
- The Role of Retinal Carotenoids and Age on Neuroelectric Indices of Attentional Control among Early to Middle-Aged Adults — Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
- Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults — Nitric Oxide
- Vitamin E in neurodegenerative disorders: Alzheimer’s disease — Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences