Foods for a healthy mind-2: Leafy greens

In the famous children’s cartoon, “Popeye the sailor man,” Popeye, the protagonist, is shown gulping cans of spinach to gain instant energy. The fictional character not only helped increase America’s spinach consumption by third, it also communicated the health benefits of eating spinach to children. Spinach contains iron which helps strengthen immunity and increase bone and muscle health besides improving memory.

Apart from spinach, parents often include many other kinds of leafy greens in their children’s food. Studies have revealed that leafy greens not only have nutritional value that is essential for good physical health, but helps maintain good mental health as well.

In this regard, a study, “Eating green leafy vegetables keeps mental abilities sharp,” conducted by Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, U.S., has revealed that adding more spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens in the diet can help stem cognitive decline. It also examined the nutrients present in these which are responsible for the “effect, linking vitamin K consumption to slower cognitive decline for the first time.”

Leafy greens have several health benefits

Often, children grow up learning the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. They are known to be a rich of source of nutrients that also prevent many diseases. Leafy greens are a rich source of fiber which has several health benefits. Further, a recent study has revealed that leafy greens may be helpful in preventing brain aging and keeping diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.

According to the research, “since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, 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.”

The research studied 954 older adults whose age averaged 81 years, whose diets and cognitive abilities were studied for an average of five years. The daily food intake of these participants was duly recorded via a detailed 144-item questionnaire. Accordingly, the total daily nutrients were noted, which were a combination of nutrient content for each food consumed by the number of servings eaten each day. The participants were subsequently assessed for an annual cognition with a comprehensive battery of 19 tests and adjusted for age, sex, education, smoking and genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The results noticed a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline in the participants who consumed greater amounts of green leafy vegetables. As per the findings, “people who ate one to two servings per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none.”

The further study of individual nutrients linked with slowing cognitive decline revealed that vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene played a major role in maintaining good brain health.

Role of Vitamin K

According to several studies, there are two main forms of vitamin K, namely K1 and K2. Notably, leafy greens are rich in Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone). Studies further suggest, vitamin K1 found in leafy green makes up about 90 percent of the vitamin K in a typical western diet, while vitamin K2 (menaquinones) makes up about 10 percent of western vitamin K consumption. According to a study conducted some years back, at Tufts University in Boston, while vitamin K1 helps in maintaining healthy insulin levels, it also helps in preventing dementia.

Mental disorders are curable

Nutritious food not only helps in maintaining good physical health, but is also beneficial for the mind. Healthy dietary habits are important for maintaining a good mental health. A good lifestyle and food habits can be helpful in preventing the onset of any mental condition. However, in case of any prevailing mental disorder, it is important to seek proper medical help.

If you or your loved one is battling any form of mental disorder, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to know more about mental health and mental disorders. Our mental health experts can guide you to the mental health rehabilitation centers in your vicinity.

Read the other articles of the series, “Foods for a healthy mind”:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids