Eating these foods could sharpen your memory, slow cognitive decline

Eating these foods could sharpen your memory, slow cognitive decline

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that green – for lack of a better word – is good.

Spinach, kale and collard greens, that is. That’s according to a study  published in the journal Neurology, which showed that healthy seniors who ate leafy green vegetables each day had slower rates of cognitive decline than peers who ate little or no greens at all.

More than 960 individuals with an average age of 81 participated in the research. Scientists kept track of diet and lifestyle habits while periodically asking the participants to undergo cognitive tests. Participants were separated into five groups based on the amount of greens they ate; the top 20 percent had about 1.3 servings per day; the bottom 20 percent ate little or no greens at all.

After about five years, “the rate of decline for [those] in the top quintile was about half the decline rate of those in the lowest quintile,” Martha Clare Morris, a professor of nutrition science and lead author of the study, told NPR.

She maintains that even after adjusting for other factors that could play a role, such as education, lifestyle habits and overall health, the researchers observed “this association [between greens and a slower rate of cognitive decline] over and above accounting for all those factors.”

“This is a very interesting association, and can’t at this point be said to be causal,” says Dr. Prentiss Taylor, an Advocate Medical Group internal medicine/preventive medicine physician. “But as a physician, I do not see harm in recommending that all adults in the U.S. eat more leafy greens, as well as the broccoli and cauliflower mentioned in this and other studies.”

Dr. Taylor says that this is one in a long list of studies demonstrating the value of a plants-prominent, Mediterranean-style diet that deemphasizes meat and saturated/animal fats.

Looking for advice to keep your brain sharp? Dr. Taylor says:

  • Getting 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise improves memory for people in their 70s. The more intense and the longer, the better for brain function.
  • Lifelong learning, especially speaking a second language or learning a musical instrument, appears to slow or even prevent the onset of dementia.
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, which is rich in Vitamin D, also appear to have value in a dementia-resistant eating plan.

“Sleeping less than six hours a night, midlife obesity and midlife hypertension,” Dr. Taylor says, “each correlate negatively with future risk of dementia.” He advises that those concerned about their cognitive function discuss risk factors and healthy next steps with their physician.

To find out more information on memory disorders, cognitive changes and the advantages of early evaluation, visit the Advocate Memory Center.

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About the Author

Adam Mesirow
Adam Mesirow

Adam Mesirow, health enews managing editor, is media relations director of Advocate Aurora Health. Securing high-profile media placements for more than a decade, he loves to tell a good story. Adam earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He lives in Chicago and enjoys playing sports, reading TIME magazine and a little nonsense now and then.