Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are not just great for your physical health, but they also have an abundance of brain-healthy nutrients that can help slow cognitive decline. Research suggests that including these plant-based foods in your diet can help improve brain function, memory, and overall cognitive health.
Vitamin K, Lutein, Folate, and Beta Carotene are some of the essential brain-healthy nutrients found in leafy greens like spinach and kale. Let’s take a closer look at each nutrient and how they benefit brain health.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health. However, research shows that it may also have an essential role in brain health. Vitamin K helps to prevent the accumulation of calcium in the brain, which can lead to cognitive decline and dementia. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that participants who had a higher intake of vitamin K had better verbal episodic memory than those who had a lower intake of the nutrient. Another study published in the Neurology Journal found that individuals with higher vitamin K levels had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those with lower levels.
Lutein is a carotenoid that gives leafy greens their vibrant green color. It is also found in other yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, such as corn, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Lutein helps to protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration, but it also has benefits for the brain. Studies show that lutein helps to improve cognitive function and memory in older adults. A study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society found that individuals with higher lutein levels performed better on tests of memory and executive function.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is essential for brain development and function. It helps to produce DNA and RNA, which are crucial for the growth and repair of brain cells. Folate also helps to regulate the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage the brain at high levels. Several studies have found that low folate levels are associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging found that individuals with higher folate levels had better cognitive function than those with lower levels.
Beta carotene is another carotenoid found in leafy greens, as well as other fruits and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. It is converted into vitamin A in the body, which is essential for vision, immune function, and skin health. Beta carotene also has antioxidant properties that help to protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that individuals with mild cognitive impairment who took a beta-carotene supplement had significant improvements in cognitive function compared to those who did not take the supplement.
In addition to these brain-healthy nutrients, leafy greens are also rich in other vitamins and minerals that are essential for overall health and wellbeing.