Leafy Greens Might Protect Aging Brains

Vitamin K may slow deterioration

One serving of leafy greens a day may help stave off dementia, recent research suggests.

Researchers analyzed the eating habits and cognitive ability of more than 950 older adults who participated in a Memory and Aging Project for an average of five years. Those who consumed one or two servings of greens such as collards, kale, mustard greens or spinach each day experienced slower mental decline than those who ate none at all, the study found. Researchers determined that study participants who regularly consumed one or two servings of leafy greens demonstrated the mental capacity of someone more than a decade younger, compared with those who never ate leafy greens.

This is likely due to the benefits associated with key nutrients from dark leafy greens, especially vitamin K, according to study lead author Martha Clare Morris of Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University in Chicago. Though she noted that the study focused solely on food sources of vitamin K, not supplements. The mental health benefit found in food sources might be associated with a constellation of nutrients found alongside vitamin K, rather than vitamin K alone, Morris said.

“It is very difficult to tease apart the specific association of vitamin K from other nutrients,” she said. Leafy greens also contain beneficial lutein, folate and beta-carotene.

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Though the exact reason leafy greens may deter dementia isn’t known, adding spinach and collards to your grocery list can’t hurt. Not particularly fond of kale or mustard greens? The same nutrients can also be found in a range of other fruits and vegetables, including arugula, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, okra, pickles and prunes.

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