Green Leafy Vegetables – Anti-Wrinkle Cream for the Brain
If you spend a fortune on various anti-ageing skin products, then spare a thought for your brain, as a much smaller financial investment can pay dividends. Recent research has revealed that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables helps to keep your brain young by slowing cognitive decline.
The Mind Diet
The diet in question is called the MIND diet and has been developed by the team at the Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago. Based on including certain groups of foods in the diet on a daily basis, the study showed that people who strictly followed this diet were, cognitively, 7.5 years younger than their counterparts following a different diet over a 5-year period. The diet includes wholegrains, fish, legumes, nuts and olive oil, but right at the top of the list is leafy green vegetables. Vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, watercress and rocket are incredibly high in vitamin K, beta carotene, folate and antioxidants such as lutein and the study suggests that a diet rich in these nutrients helps to promote a healthy brain function.
According to the MIND diet, the top 10 recommended brain-friendly foods are:
- Green leafy vegetables (daily)
- Other vegetables (daily)
- Nuts (daily)
- Berries (2x per week)
- Beans (every other day)
- Whole grains (daily)
- Fish (at least 1x per week)
- Poultry (2x per week)
- Olive oil (daily)
- Wine (1 glass)
The top 5 brain unfriendly foods are:
- Red meats (less than 1x per week)
- Butter (less than 1tbsp per day)
- Cheese (less than 1x per week)
- Pastries and sweets (less than 1x per week)
- Fried or fast food (less than 1x per week)
Why Else Are Greens Good For Me?
Of course, the general health-giving properties of leafy green vegetables is not new news: most of us have grown up with the words “eat your greens” ringing in our ears, but let’s just remind ourselves why they’re so good for us. Aside from the excellent news about helping to slow cognitive decline, greens contain anti-inflammatory properties, which is more good news, as inflammation is a key risk factor for a number of conditions, such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens help to promote bone health, as the high levels of vitamin K reduces the action of osteoclasts, cells that break down bone mass and, containing a healthy dose of calcium (twice as much as milk, per 100g) and magnesium, they support bone density. The antioxidant profile of green vegetables is truly impressive – packed with vitamin C, zinc, selenium, beta carotene and other carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, they provide outstanding immune support and help to reduce the oxidative stress in the body that contributes to chronic disease. Antioxidants also help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, the deposit of plaque in the arteries.
How Should I Eat Green Leafy Vegetables?
It’s important to cook green vegetables with care, as B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble, which means that the vitamins can leach out of the vegetables into the water if they are boiled for any length of time. Steaming or steam frying (using a small amount of water or broth instead of oil) is probably the best way to ensure nutrient content is maximised.
Eating raw green vegetables in salad generally ensures that you can make the most of the nutrients available, however, raw is not necessarily always best: high levels of oxalates in raw spinach can affect calcium absorption and raw cabbage should be avoided by anyone suffering from hypothyroidism, due to its goitrogenic properties which can interfere with iodine uptake in the body.
All in all, while anti-wrinkle cream may keep you looking young on the outside, it’s clear that leafy green vegetables are what you need to keep young on the inside, so make sure they find their way into your shopping basket on a regular basis.
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