popeyeStay Sharp – Eat Your Veggies!

There’s always a new study that will tell you what’s bad for you, so it’s refreshing every once in a while to get one that tells you how to keep your mind sharp.

A six-year study of close to 2,000 older men and women in the Chicago area points to the advantages eating your vegetables, just as your mother told you to do. Older people who eat more than two servings of vegetables daily demonstrated a measure of mental sharpness that appeared five years younger than those who ate little or no veggies.

spinachAnd because I know you’re wondering about it, the green leafy vegetables were the best, including spinach (now that the ecoli scare is over), kale and collards. They contain lots of the antioxidant Vitamin E that helps slow the mental decline associated with old age by fighting the chemicals that can damage brain cells. Fruits are also known to have vitamin E, but not as much as vegetables.

Researchers at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center also noted that salad oils can also contribute to a younger brain by keeping cholesterol low and arteries clear. collardsThe study was published in Neurology and funded with grants from the National Institute on Aging.

The study participants were aged 65 and a vegetable serving equaled about a half-cup chopped or one cup if the vegetable was a raw leafy green like spinach. Tests measured short-term and delayed memory over a six-year period. Participants would be read a story and then then quizzed on specific recall. Flashcard exercises were also used for recognition of symbols and numbers. Those who ate more than two vegetable services daily had about 40% less mental decline, which more closely resembled the results you would expect for persons five years younger.

Researchers also found that those who ate lots of vegetables were more physically active, which leads to the conclusion that good activities for the heart are also good ways to keep your mind sharp.

So, once again, your mother had it right, and it’s not too late to start putting more veggies on the plate.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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