Just when you thought you couldn't love spinach salad any more than you already do... well, this: A new study has revealed adding more leafy greens to your diet may help keep your mind sharp as you age, linking vitamin K consumption to slower cognitive decline. (Happy dance anyone?)
"Losing one's memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older," lead study author Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., assistant provost for community research at Rush University Medical Center said in a statement. "Increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer's disease and dementia."
For an average of five years, researchers tracked the eating habits and cognitive abilities of 954 participants. At the beginning of the study, participants filled out a 144-item survey that gave a detailed account of their daily food and bevvy intake.
Researchers then calculated the total daily nutrients by adding the nutrient content of each food consumed to the number of servings participants noshed on each day. Once a year, they assessed participants' cognitive status through various tests—making sure to control for things like age, sex, education, and smoking—to accurately measure the impact diet has on keeping your noodle sharp.
The result? There was "a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline for study participants who consumed greater amounts of green leafy vegetables." And get this: People who ate one to two servings of leafy greens on the regular had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger than participants who consumed none.
Researchers found that vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene were the most likely culprits helping keep the mind in tip top shape.
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"Our study identified some very novel associations," said Morris. "No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein... Our study provides evidence that eating green leafy vegetables and other foods rick in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene can help keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning."
And don't forget to add as much color to your plate as possible, since brightly colored fruits and veggies are also ah-mazing sources of vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and buy out the produce aisle.
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Image: Leafy greens photo via Shutterstock