As mom would always say, don’t skip your veggies! In study after study, using different populations around the world, researchers have concluded that people who eat more vegetables have a lower risk of cognitive decline and brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. A variety of green leafy and brightly colored vegetables also provide a host of other overall health benefits.
Vegetables are THE major food group of the very popular and well documented Mediterranean Diet, MIND diet and DASH diet. They pack a punch full of nutrients to keep your body fueled and healthy. Veggies are also VERY low in fat and can help you lose or maintain your weight.
The stars are leafy green vegetables.
Most Americans do not eat enough vegetables. Aim high, as vegetables are key to brain and body health.
- Variety is as important as quantity
- Try to fill half your plate for lunch and dinner with vegetables, and reconsider red meat in your diet, using it only as a garnish.
- You can obtain at least 1 portion of vegetables by drinking a glass of low sodium vegetable juice. Best are 100% vegetable juices such as low-sodium V-8. Those mixed with fruit juices may taste better to you, but they can be laden with fructose (a form of sugar), which is definitely NOT good for your brain or body.
- Read our blog “How to Eat More Brain Healthy Foods” for tips on getting more veggies into your diet every day.
The Science Behind Veggies
Vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants, including vitamins A and E. They also contain traces of Omega 3′s and other brain-healthy nutrients such as Folate and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). The brain benefits associated with dark leafy greens also stem from Vitamin K which is a fat-soluble vitamin mostly known for its role in helping blood to clot. It is also known as a key anti-aging vitamin. In addition to boosting your brain health, green leafy vegetables also have other positive bodily effects. Veggies can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your blood pressure, keep your digestive tract healthy, help prevent osteoporosis by regulating calcium, help prevent cancer, and improve insulin sensitivity.
ALL that goodness results from simply eating good food!
Each of the leafy greens has its own research, but to point out several:
- The groundbreaking Chicago Study on the MIND Diet proved that those who consumed 1 or 2 servings daily of foods such as spinach, kale, mustard greens and/or collards showed slower mental deterioration than those who ate no leafy greens at all.
- Romaine lettuce, which is very high in Vitamin K, also contains high levels of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM or SAMe). Our bodies, like all living cells, make some SAM but usually not enough to meet our needs. So, it is essential to ingest more of it in the food we eat. Additionally, the University of North Carolina conducted a study regarding low levels of vitamin K. Those living with low vitamin K levels also have deregulated calcium in their brains. This deregulation can cause damage to the brain affecting those with or prone to Alzheimer’s.
A note about medications
Certain medications or medical conditions may change the way your body responds to foods, including leafy green vegetables. If you are taking any medications (especially blood thinning drugs like Warfarin, commonly sold as Coumadin or Jantoven), it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine an appropriate amount of green vegetables for you. This article provides an overview: “Leafy Greens and Coumadin: What You Need to Know“.