Nutrients found in green leafy vegetables just might make your mind 11 years younger, according to a new study. Dementia, a decline in memory and cognitive function, is one of the most feared aspects of aging. But those who reported eating their vegetables seem to be more successful in staving it off. Researchers at Rush University and Tufts University studied 1,000 people and found that those who reported eating one to two daily servings of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce or spinach, had slower rates of cognitive decline.
Study participants completed food frequency questionnaires, which asked how often they ate certain foods in the past year. The researchers then estimated the levels of nutrients consumed by each participant based on their responses. The people in the study also underwent yearly testing of their memory and cognitive function. The group of participants who ate the most servings of leafy greens per day (an average of only 1.3 servings daily) had slower cognitive decline than those who ate fewer leafy greens, researchers found. Statistically, the effect was similar to being 11 years younger. Devi said she thinks the protective effects of leafy greens stem more from an overall healthy diet. “It keeps your arteries clean, reduces the risk for heart disease, reduces the risk for diabetes, and all that is good for your brain,” she said. Morris and her team attempted to control for other factors that can contribute for brain health including heart conditions, physical activity, mentally stimulating activities “like reading books and doing crosswords” and other factors. But the contribution from these other factors is “always a concern in observational studies and can never be fully ruled out,” she noted. Both Devi and Morris recommend against taking supplements of the studied nutrients and advocate for incorporating leafy greens instead. “It’s just so much easier and safer to get them from nature,” Devi said.