Leszek-Glasner/ShutterstockWant some food for thought? When it comes to keeping your brain in tip-top shape, there’s a method more powerful than exercise or crossword puzzles. Hint, hint: Science says you should start paying more attention to what’s on your plate, instead.
A small study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience suggests that eating a diet rich in lutein, a nutrient found in kale, spinach, avocados, and eggs, could protect your brain from aging. And whether you’re a sharp 20-something or old enough to detect the signs your brain is aging faster than you are, this powerful nutrient has huge brain benefits.
For starters, past research has shown that lutein displays anti-inflammatory properties. Since lutein accumulates in our brain tissues, it’s likely that this nutrient improves brain function. But our bodies can’t produce lutein naturally, so we can only get it from the food we eat.
That brings us to the latest study. Researchers at the University of Illinois recruited 60 people ages 25 to 45. After measuring the participants’ levels of lutein, the research team monitored their brain activity while they performed an attention-heavy task.
This is what they found: Older people who had higher levels of lutein were more likely to match the cognitive pace of their younger counterparts who had lower levels of lutein. (These thoughts are aging you faster, too.)
“As people get older, they experience typical decline. However, research has shown that this process can start earlier than expected. You can even start to see some differences in the 30s,” study author Anne Walk, PhD, said in a statement. “If lutein can protect against decline, we should encourage people to consume lutein-rich foods at a point in their lives when it has maximum benefit.”
Although the study can’t guarantee a cause-and-effect relationship between lutein and its anti-aging benefits, it can’t hurt to start incorporating more leafy greens in your diet. They are among the healthiest vegetables you can eat, after all.
Notably, this study was funded by the Haas Avocado Board; that might raise some eyebrows, considering their produce is a rich source of lutein. Rest assured, though, that the study underwent scientific peer review.
Gives whole new meaning to the term “brain food,” doesn’t it?