There are plenty of activities that are sure to help improve brain health, such as learning new skills, reading, exercising, and getting enough sleep. However, your diet is also an important element in keeping your brain “young” as you age, and including the right kind of vegetables on your plate will only help keep your brain smarter and sharper.
Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSA, LDauthor of The sports nutrition script and a member of our medical expert board shared her insight into the types of vegetables you can include in your diet to keep your brain young. Here are the veggies to pack for your next grocery shopping, and for even more brain-healthy eating tips, check out the #1 best nut to keep your brain sharp, dietitian says.
“Green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens, are rich in vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene, and lutein, all of which play important roles in brain health,” Goodson says. “These vegetables are high in antioxidants, which help fight cellular damage in our bodies. The less damage is done to our cells, the healthier and stronger the body stays.”
A study published in Neurology suggests that consuming one serving of green leafy vegetables per day may slow cognitive decline with aging. Here are the 5 best leafy greens you should be eating every day, dietitians say.
Goodson suggests broccoli, one of several cruciferous vegetables that may positively impact your brain health. According to Northwestern Medicine, cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamin K, which has been linked to sharper memory. These vegetables — including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and more — are also a potent source of folate, which is important for cognitive function and an aging brain.
“Sweet potatoes and other orange vegetables like carrots, red peppers, and pumpkin are great sources of beta-carotene,” Goodson says. “Beta-carotene has been linked to improved cognitive health due to its antioxidant effects. Remember, antioxidants are the good guys fighting the bad guys (free radicals) that cause damage to our cells.”
Beta-carotene is even touted as a potentially useful treatment for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, according to a Biomolecules study.
“Beets are a rich source of nitrates and folate, both of which contribute to optimal brain health,” Goodson says. “Nitrates increase blood flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function. Folic acid, also known as B9, has been shown to help reduce the risk of several neurological and psychological conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.”
Reap the benefits of beets by adding this hearty roasted beet salad with barley or mixing this immune-boosting blood orange beet smoothie.
You can’t go wrong eating veggies all day long, so grab one or two of the veggies listed above and throw them into your next meal to take care of your brain health!
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. read more