Make Your Age Just A Number With Green Leafy Vegetables

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

If you needed yet another reason to have more “salad days,” researchers have just confirmed that eating green leafy vegetables can help keep your brain younger for longer.

How much younger?

For those participants in the study who ate more than one serving of green leafy veggies a day, their cognitive function approached that of someone 11 years younger!

What’s even more impressive is that this difference in cognitive decline is still true even after researchers took into account factors that can impact mental aging, such as age, gender, education, exercise, participation in cognitive activities, smoking and diet.  

So, imagine taking a cognitive test today with a friend who is very similar to you and then taking it again in 10 years. If the only real difference over the course of this decade is that you eat leafy greens every day and your friend doesn’t, at the end of this decade you most likely will have the same cognitive abilities you had when you first took the test. Your friend, on the other hand, will likely have cognitive abilities that have declined.  

Maybe that fountain of youth that Juan Ponce de León was searching for in the 1500s was really in his salad bowl all along.

What is it about these green leafy vegetables that make such a difference in keeping our brains working better?

Well, leafy greens, such as spinach, are generally rich in vitamin E, folate, vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene. They also are rich in vitamins A and C  as well as many of the B vitamins. If that isn’t enough motivation to eat more greens, they also have a lot of antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. As a bonus, they are low in carbohydrates, sodium and cholesterol and have a low glycemic index. If you had to design the “perfect food,” you would probably end up with green leafy vegetables!

And there are even more benefits!

If helping keep your cognitive function a decade younger than your age isn’t enough reason to get you to the produce section at the supermarket or, even better, to your local farmers’ market, there is more.

Research has clearly shown that fresh, green leafy vegetables bring a cornucopia of other health benefits, including the following:

  • Preventing cancer
  • Promoting bone health
  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Promoting digestive health
  • Preventing or better managing diabetes
  • Protecting vision and eye health
  • Boosting athletic performance
  • Facilitating weight management
  • Promoting healthier or natural sleep
  • Reducing the risk of Alzheimer's
  • Reducing the risk of birth defects

Fresh vegetables are the best!

To maximize the nutritional value and benefits of these precious greens, it is best to purchase and prepare them while they are fresh. Getting nutrients from fresh, home-prepared food is always better than highly processed food. This is because fresh food has the right nutrients in the right combinations in the best form for your body to maximize their health benefits. In order to preserve nutritional value, it is best to eat these greens raw. If you have to cook them, be sure to not overcook them. Overcooking causes a loss of nutrients.

It is good to try eating a wide variety of green leafy vegetables to prevent boredom in the kitchen. They possess a wide array of benefits in addition to keeping your brain younger. Some of my favorite greens include:

  • Arugula – One of the more surprising benefits of arugula is that due to its nitrate content, it may boost athletic performance by improving endurance. It also has a wide range of vascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction. This versatile vegetable has also been shown to help vision and eye health.
  • Broccoli – A recently discovered benefit of broccoli is the role it plays in helping with gastrointestinal health, including preventing Crohn's disease. It also can play a role in preventing cancer and in promoting bone and cardiovascular health. It does not cause blood sugar spikes, so it’s great for people with diabetes.
  • Tarragon – While usually thought of as just an herb (basically a plant that is used to flavor other plants and foods), there is some evidence that tarragon may assist in regulating blood sugar by helping the pancreas release insulin. It is also used in some parts of the world to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Other interesting benefits of tarragon are that it may also provide relief from a toothache as well as insomnia!
  • Cabbage – If you or someone you know is undergoing radiation treatment for cancer, cabbage should be in the treatment arsenal since it may help protect against the effects of radiation. It is also rich in probiotics to help keep your gut healthy. Cabbage, like many other leafy vegetables, is great for helping to keep blood pressure and blood sugar levels in check.
  • Spinach – This well known green is incredibly versatile and nutrient-rich. In addition to possibly helping slow down the aging of your brain, it may also help fight cancer and be great for cardiovascular health.
  • Watercress – While you probably think of little tea sandwiches when you think of watercress, you should think again about it given its benefits. It may reduce DNA damage, especially caused by smoking, which may lead to cancer. It may also reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s and help reduce the chances of having depression.
  • Dandelion – If you have dandelions in your yard, think twice before reaching for the weed killer. Turns out, this plant has been used for centuries by different cultures to treat everything from indigestion to eczema. Dandelion can also fight skin cancer, cleanse the liver and prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Parsley – The next time you are served or prepare food with some parsley as a garnish or decorative addition, make sure to eat it rather than tossing it. It is perhaps one of the best examples of the saying that “good things come in small packages.” It packs as much nutritional punch as some of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Some of the many nutrients in parsley include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium along with many key vitamins.

You can learn more about green leafy vegetables, the nutrients they contain and how these can help you get and stay healthy in the pH Labs book “Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.”

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.   

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