July 01, 2018

Eating leafy greens may help preserve memory

Popeye and his cans of spinach aside, most leafy greens aren't commonly thought of as "superfoods." However, new research suggests that salad staples such as spinach, kale, collard greens and other types of lettuce may be superfoods when it comes to preserving memory and brain function.

The study, published in Neurology on Jan. 16, 2018, involved 960 adults with an average age of 81. At the study outset, all participants were free of any form of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, and had detailed nutritional assessments. Participants took part in periodic cognitive assessments over about five years to determine thinking or memory changes.

When the data were analyzed, those who ate the most leafy greens were equivalent to about 11 years younger in terms of age-related cognitive decline than were those who rarely or never ate leafy greens. This finding adds to other studies that have suggested a similar link.

Those who ate the most leafy greens were consuming one to two servings of leafy greens daily. In the study, a serving equaled one cup of raw, shredded greens or a half-cup of cooked greens. The study was inconclusive regarding which specific nutrients in leafy greens were associated with greater benefit. Rather, it appeared possible that it's the mix of nutrients found in greens working synergistically that has beneficial effects on the brain.

It's always difficult to prove cause and effect with nutrition studies. However, there's overwhelming evidence that consuming daily servings of a wide variety of vegetables — including leafy greens — is part of an optimal dietary foundation for good overall health and weight maintenance.

If your vision of a leafy green is a wedge of...