Eating Salad Every Day Keeps Your Brain 11 Years Younger

by Shannan Rouss ; Updated September 12, 2018

Dig in! A kale salad is rich in vitamin K, vitamin E, folate and more — all nutrients that may protect your brain as it ages.

Forgetting where you put your phone, the name of that 1997 comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, or even why you walked into a room — all normal. But as early as your mid-40s, your memory may not be as sharp as it was in your prime.

The good news is that you can do something about the decline. A new study in the journal Neurology suggests that adding just a handful of kale to your smoothie or opting for a green salad at lunch could help keep your brain young. Pretty cool, right?

Study authors found that people who ate an average of 1.3 servings of leafy greens a day (about a cup of raw lettuce or just over a half-cup of cooked spinach or kale) had a brain that was the equivalent of one that was 11 years younger than those who ate almost no leafy greens. Even people who hate greens and don’t want to eat a lot of them can reap the benefits!

The results were based on data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP), an ongoing study of more than 950 adults ages 58 to99. Participants self-reported their eating habits, while their memory and thinking skills were tested annually over the course of an average of 4.5 years, according to lead researcher Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

A previous study, also led by Morris and based on data from the Memory and Aging Project, found that people whose eating habits most resembled the MIND diet (short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) had brains that functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than people whose eating habits were the least MIND-friendly. What’s more, the MIND dieters also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half.

The MIND diet emphasizes consuming brain-healthy foods, including leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains and fish, while avoiding red meats, butter, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried or fast food.

In terms of a definite link between leafy greens and brain function, Morris and her colleagues point out that the research shows a strong correlation, but consuming mountains of kale, spinach and lettuce alone isn’t a sure bet for long-term brain health. The science isn’t bulletproof — yet. “This study is part of an evolving field that is identifying foods and nutrients that protect the brain with age,” Morris told MedPageToday.

Still, eating plenty of leafy greens is always a good idea. Looking for some fresh ways to incorporate them into your diet? Check out our handy build-a-salad guide!

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What Do YOU Think?

Will you be incorporating more leafy greens into your diet based on these findings? Anything else you’ve tried to help keep your mind sharp? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author

Shannan Rouss is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for magazines including Self, Prevention, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, and her work has appeared online at MSN.com, mom.me and elsewhere.