Green Brains: Cognitive Benefits of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Green Brains: Cognitive Benefits of Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Sure, your parents may have told you to eat your vegetables but research keeps telling us too. This is particularly true for dark green leafy vegetables which are now linked to higher brain functioning.

Spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens all fall into the superfood category capable of keeping you healthy including being more focused, alert and able to recall short as well as long-term memories. Get some green brains and all the benefits that come with it.

Research Roundup

Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., is an assistant provost for community research at Rush University Medical Center. She is also the leader of the research team that recently identified “nutrients in leafy greens that slow cognitive decline in older adults”.

When it comes to getting older, cognitive decline is a fearful and debilitating ailment for those afflicted as well as their families. Now, science believes that changing your diet to include more cognitive friendly foods may be an excellent non-conventional preventative of such decline.

Professor Morris comments,

“Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

A 2006 study at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago found participants that ate more than two servings of vegetables a week experienced 40 percent less mental decline than those who ate less or no vegetables.

Behind the Green Veil 

Vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene have been directly linked to enhancing brain function and slow cognitive decline. Found in most dark green veggies, these nutrients hold powerful compounds.

From the same study run by Professor Morris she adds,

“Our study provides evidence that eating green leafy vegetables and other foods rich in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene can help to keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning.”

Breaking it Down

Looking into dark green leafy vegetables and how each compound within them may affect the brain shows some beneficial results. A few of the prominent players in the dark green leafy vegetable bio-gene makeup are described here:

Chlorophyll – The molecular structure of this ingredient, found abundantly in dark green leafy vegetables, closely mimics that of hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin is responsible for increasing the production of healthy red blood cells for rapid, amplified oxygen transport.

Vitamin K – A Canadian study titled, ‘Vitamin K, an emerging nutrient in brain function’ stated,

“Finally, there is now data to suggest that vitamin K has the potential to influence psychomotor behavior and cognition.”

Folate – This is a B complex that when oxidized becomes folic acid. Berkeley Wellness of the University of California cites research that investigated the effects of B vitamins on the brain,

“A 2010 English study published in the online journal PLoS One found that people with mild cognitive impairment who took large doses of B12, B6 and folic acid had much less brain shrinkage over a two-year period, suggesting a reduced risk of dementia.”

There are also some observational studies that suggest increasing folate intake could help reduce symptoms of depression.

Calcium – This mineral is highly essential for healthy brain functioning. It assists in engaging neurons to release brain neurotransmitters and is responsible for storing and retrieving memories.  Plus it is known to be a potential preventer of osteoporosis, one of the most prominent afflictions during old age.

Fiber – Fiber is a common word when it comes to optimal health but what most don’t realize is that it is the brain that controls fiber’s results. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain  responsible for a variety of bodily functions including hunger and thirst.

Published in Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science (4/29/14) an English study cited,

“The fibre was fermented as usual into acetate, which turned up not only in the gut, but also in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to be involved in regulating appetite. There, the researchers found, it was metabolized through the glutamine-glutamate cycle, which is involved in controlling the release of neurotransmitters associated with appetite control.”

Exercise and eat a high vegetable diet including dark green leafy vegetables and experience a boost in your overall health.