Most of us know we need to eat more vegetables, but for far too many of us vegetables are an afterthought to a meal. It may not surprise you that according to a CDC report in 2017, less than 10% of US adults consumes the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. Clearly, we have some work to do.
If you need more motivation to eat your vegetables, consider this: multiple studies have found that higher vegetable consumption is related to decreased risk for cognitive decline and improved cognitive function with age. Specifically, leafy green vegetables appear to be the star vegetable group for your brain.
In a follow-up study by Morris et al, the group who found that the MIND diet, a mediterranean-based eating pattern, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, examined the effects of vegetable consumption on cognition. They found that consuming at least 1 serving of leafy green vegetables per day resulted in slower cognitive decline.
Leafy green vegetables are a rich source of a variety of nutrients including Vitamin A, folate, magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium. In addition, leafy green vegetables are a great source of fiber antioxidants, which are essential to gut health and immune health, all of which feed your brain.
A serving of leafy greens is either ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw. Choose from delicious options such as kale, swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, or arugula. Less common options to try include dandelion greens, broccoli greens, or beet greens.
If you are new to leafy greens, experiment with different preparation methods to find your favorite, remembering to always add a healthy fat to help you absorb all of the nutrients:
- Fresh in a salad with a vinaigrette dressing
- Sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper
- Added to a soup or stew at the end of cooking
- Added to a smoothie or shake (you’ll hardly notice!)
- Scrambles together with eggs
- Added to your favorite dishes – soft tacos, quinoa or rice dishes, stir fry, etc – the possibilities are endless!
As part of AFFIRMATIVhealth’s RE:mind program, consuming at least 2½ cups of vegetables, including leafy greens daily, is encouraged. To easily incorporate more vegetables into your daily routine, add vegetables to as many meals and snacks as possible, try different types of vegetables (especially greens!) using a variety of preparation methods. As you enjoy eating more vegetables, as well as trying new leafy greens, your body and brain will thank you.