Green foods are touted for their nutritional value and benefits, but which ones, exactly, are useful for brain health?
Green Leafy Vegetables
According to the National Institute of Aging, “Studies have found… that a diet rich in vegetables (author’s note: article no longer available), especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, is associated with a reduced rate of cognitive decline.”
That’s because these green foods are full of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene, is an antioxidant that has been shown to have cognitive benefits (AARP).
They also contain folate, which is great for brain health (Joy Bauer).
Additionally, they have an enzyme known as myrosinase, which appears to support brain health and often is not found in supplements (Oregon State University).
Green leafy vegetables include kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, and broccoli. Find a list of the USA’s top 10 green leafy veggies and how you can incorporate them into your diet here.
Green Peppers & Peas
Green peppers and peas, like green leafy vegetables, are full of folic acid (Michigan State University) and “folic acid is crucial for proper brain health” (University of Maryland Medical Center) [reference link no longer available].
Folic acid is a B vitamin used to make new cells. Everyone needs it, but women are especially encouraged to get enough folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control).
It is common to have low levels of folic acid, so be sure to boost your consumption through green peppers, peas, and other foods with this important B vitamin.
“Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain” (WebMD). Avocados contain a healthy kind of fat that contributes to a healthy blood flow. They also help fight hypertension, a risk factor for memory loss and diseases (WebMD).
Since avocados are high in calories, it is recommended that you eat only one-fourth or one-half of an avocado daily.
Apples are great for your heart health, help lower your cholesterol, and may also help control blood sugar and appetite (WebMD). Of course, anything good for your heart is good for your brain, as it keeps your blood flowing.
Best Health Magazine says one study showed that “drinking apple juice could keep Alzheimer’s away and fight the effects of aging on the brain” due to “higher levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.”
Finally, let’s not forget about green tea and its role in fighting dementia. What makes green tea so healthful is that it contains catechins, antioxidants that help fight cell damage (National Institutes of Health).
Tannins, another set of compounds found in green tea, have “also been shown to have brain boosting benefits: they may prevent the brain damage that occurs after strokes and other brain injuries” (Psychology Today).
Like many other green foods, green tea improves blood flow, lowers cholesterol, and stabilizes blood sugar, all of which benefit the brain (WebMD).
- Selection: Choose whole foods over supplements when possible to ensure you get all the health benefits, which may not carry over when the food is processed (Oregon State University).
- Preparation: How you prepare these foods determines their nutritional worth. In general, the more you cook or process them, the fewer the nutrients you get (Oregon State University).
- Incorporation: Work these foods into your diet slowly. For example, a good “starter” leafy vegetable is iceberg lettuce. Though it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value, it will help you acquire the taste for leafy veggies (WebMD).
There are many websites and cookbooks available to provide recipes for these brain-healthy green foods. Pick your favorite and try a new recipe today!