Eating daily servings of leafy greens could keep your brain around 11 years younger, recent research suggests. A study from Tufts University assessed the dietary patterns of 1,000 people and found that those who ate one to two daily helpings of leafy vegetables such as lettuce or kale showed a significantly slower rate of cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline can lead to dementia, one of the most feared conditions of aging worldwide. Globally, approximately 47 million people have dementia, and many of them develop Alzheimer’s disease. While the disease is not absolutely preventable, eating foods that benefit brain health could be key in staving off the disease for as long as possible.
Participants in the study filled out “food frequency questionnaires,” which queried them on how often they ate certain foods in the past year. They also underwent annual memory and cognitive function tests.
The researchers used the submitted information to estimate nutrient profiles for the participants and compared them with the cognitive test results. They found that the group who ate the most servings of leafy greens per day — an average of about 1.3 servings — had slower cognitive decline than those who ate fewer leafy greens. By researchers’ estimates, sneaking just a few more greens each day — 1.3 servings is certainly doable — kept their brains a whole 11 years younger, at least in terms of measurable cognitive decline.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, suggests that the benefit comes from nutrients found in leafy greens that are associated with brain health, such as folate and lutein. These nutrients serve as a barrier to inflammation and other caustic conditions in the brain, preserving its function.
The results are somewhat limited in that they only show correlation, not causation, and rely entirely on retrospective accounts of food consumption. A person’s recollection of how many greens they ate in the past year might not be a completely accurate measure.
However, researchers note that there’s no real drawback to adding a serving of greens to your day. If you’re unsure of how to make salads you’ll actually look forward to eating, here are 50 delicious recipes to get you started.