Think back to when you were a kid: what’s the one thing your parents demanded time and time again? The phrase that haunts you to this day? You can probably still hear them yelling, “Clean your room!” or “Get to bed!” but that’s not the answer we’re looking for here. I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with cleaning your plate at dinnertime. That’s right: eat your veggies! For whatever reason, kids just aren’t fans of vegetables. And getting kids to eat them is a real struggle. I remember little 10-year-old me thinking, “What’s the point? Okay sure, they’re healthy and nutritious, but do they really make that big of a difference?”

The answer is yes. And a certain type of veggies may have a greater impact on our health than previously realized. A new study from Rush University says that eating just one serving of leafy greens a day may help preserve memory and cognitive skills. “Adding a daily serving of green leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to help promote brain health,” study author and nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris explained. These findings are especially significant considering the, “sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia,” according to Morris.

More specifically, this research found that people who ate one serving of green leafy vegetables displayed a slower rate of decline when their memory and thinking skills were tested. Furthermore, the older participants in this study who ate at least one serving of leafy green veggies appeared as many as 11 years younger cognitively speaking.

To reach these findings, researchers analyzed food questionnaires and administered annual cognitive assessments of 960 older adults (with the average age of 81) for 4.7 years. The research team divided these participants into five different groups based on how often they ate leafy greens and then compared cognitive assessments between those who ate the most and those who ate the least.

The researchers observed that the participants’ scores on the memory and thinking tests declined at an average rate of 0.08 standardized units every year. And over 10 years of follow-up, the decline rate for the participants who ate the largest amount of leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardized units each year, as compared to those who ate the least amount. According to Morris, this corresponds to the former group being 11 years younger.

Even after accounting for other factors that could potentially affect one’s brain health—such as alcohol, seafood, obesity, and amount of physical and cognitive activities—these findings remained valid. Morris explained what these findings mean: “The study results do not prove that eating green, leafy vegetables slows brain aging, but it does show an association. The study cannot rule out other possible reasons for the link.” Furthermore, because this study only tested older adults, it is unknown whether these results apply to other ages.

Our parents were right—eating vegetables is incredibly important and beneficial to our health. Veggies are rich with nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and Vitamin C. And specific groups of veggies prove to offer additional benefits, such as leafy greens: they help fight off diabetes, improve heart health, and—according to this study—they just might promote brain health as well.

Rush University Medical Center (2017, December 21). Put a Folk in Cognitive Decline: Eating Leafy Greens May Slow Brain Aging by 11 Years. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved December 21, 2017 from