Here are ways to pack in the leafy greens and eat your way younger.
When many people think of kale, they think young, trendy, yoga-doing, green juice-drinking hipsters. But 70 is the new 60, and eating kale, as well as its leafy green counterparts like lettuce, spinach, and cabbage, is an easy way to capitalize on that. Researched proved that leafy greens slow brain aging. People who eat just 1.3 servings of leafy greens per day are proven to be 11 years younger cognitively.
What Gives Leafy Greens Their Punch?
Leafy green vegetables are full of powerful nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, and folate. Vitamin K is known for its role in helping the body with blood clotting, bone metabolism, and regulating bone calcium levels. It also helps the brain with episodic memory — a type of long-term memory that allows you to recall past events and experiences when they happened, and how you felt at that time. Lutein, a carotenoid that protects eye tissue, also accumulates in the brain resulting in sharper prospective memory and faster reaction times. Folate is a vitamin commonly associated with prenatal health. Still, it plays a role in vascular health and reduces peripheral inflammatory cytokine levels — an inflammatory process that abets Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.
And Research Says …
A 2018 study conducted by Dr. Martha Clare Morris and colleagues at Rush University in Chicago and the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center in Boston, referred to as the Rush Memory and Aging Project, found that leafy greens slow brain aging. Their report states: “Consumption of green leafy vegetables was positively and signiﬁcantly associated with slower cognitive decline.” Over nearly five years, Dr. Morris and her colleagues studied 960 dementia-free participants ages 58–99 years, who completed questionnaires to determine how frequently they ate certain foods, including spinach, kale, collard greens, and lettuce, during the year preceding the start of the study. The participants took annual cognition tests to assess episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability, and perceptual speed. The study examined the relationship between cognitive decline and vitamin K, lutein, β-carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol, and α-tocopherol, which are primary nutrients in leafy green vegetables.
Participants who consumed the highest serving of leafy greens — median 1.3 servings per day — were found to be 11 years younger cognitively than those who ate only .09 servings per day. Dr. Morris believes the impact on cognitive decline is thanks to vitamin K, lutein, and folate.
Add Leafy Greens to Your Diet
Unfamiliar with kale and other leafy greens? There are many easy and delicious ways to include them in your diet. For example, toss a handful of spinach to your omelet in the morning. Stuff a veggie wrap with romaine lettuce or spring mix. A bunch of chopped kale adds an extra punch to any soup or even lasagna. Cabbage is also great in soup, or as a stir fry. If you enjoy making your own sauces, like marinara or pesto, try sneaking in some kale or arugula. You don’t have to eat salads every day to fill up on yummy, brain-healthy, leafy greens.