Rabbit Food – A Brainy 2018

January 2, 2018 in Food and the Brain, Health by Joyce Bunderson

I was thinking that maybe this year you may want to consider focusing on getting greens into your regular eating pattern. I’ve met quite a few people who make fun of those (including me), suggesting that such eating is rabbit food. I don’t say much to them, because I know they’re committed to what they like; but just in case you’re one of those people, I thought that I’d tell why you might want to consider increasing the rabbit food in your diet.

There are lots of reasons to eat rabbit food and I’ll remind you of some of those later; but I think I will jump right in with a recent study (December 2017) published in Neurology.

The researchers from Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found that just one serving per day of green leafy vegetables was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. The researchers controlled the data for other factors that have shown a link in past studies including: age, gender, level of education, exercise, participation in cognitive activities, smoking and consumption of seafood and alcohol.

The consumption of one serving of greens a day was equated with a brain that functioned at an eleven years younger level. The participants who ate about 1.3 servings of leafy greens a day experienced a cognitive decline that was about half as steep as the participants whose daily consumption was near zero (think of that one puny sliver of iceberg lettuce –a nutritional midget – on your burger).

They singled out some of the nutrients in the leafy green food group, but really they don’t know what it is about eating this group of foods that offers the brain protection. Many of the nutrients are anti-inflammatory in nature, and this may be part of the mechanism that decreases the accumulation of the toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid, and neuronal damage and death.

The vegetables that have the nutrients suspected of protecting the brain are the same foods that offer other nutrients, plant proteins and fiber. So as always, you’ll not find me suggesting that you take apart the leafy green vegetables in order to take a selection of nutrients from a magic bullet supplement bottle.

Dementia is an extremely complex chronic disease, and as the factors that were controlled for in this study have been shown to be related, there are likely other factors in addition – waiting to be discovered. But how much could it hurt to have a serving or two of leafy greens with your fish, talk a walk, come home to use your thinker for something you enjoy, and skip the smoking and alcohol. We can’t change our age or gender, but we can pay attention to the associations that are discovered, and choose and eat foods that are found be associated with good brain health.

When your mom or maybe even your grandma encouraged you to eat your greens because they were good for you, she was right. While you’re trying to protect your brain by eating leafy greens, you may be instigating some other side effects such as: reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. When you’re filling up on leafy greens not only are you getting a gold mine of nutrients (and all the benefits) you may also reduce your calorie intake. Greens are about the lowest calorie food choice you can make. If you want me to keep stacking up the reasons to include leafy greens, I can add that leafy greens are also perfect if you’re struggling with diabetes (or would like to prevent it), because greens are so high in magnesium and have such a low glycemic index (don’t raise blood sugar easily). In addition, dark greens are also perfect for those who are striving to protect their bones from osteoporosis. Green leafy vegetables are associated with a robust immune function and healthy eyes.

One super easy way to add greens to your diet is to add some chopped greens (spinach; Swiss chard; cabbage; collards; bok choy; arugula; mizuna; broccoli; turnip, mustard and beet greens; or kale for example) to a nice warm bowl of soup. Summer seems like a constant opportunity for salad greens, but winter is more challenging for some.

So if you’re like me and need your brain (and body) to serve well through 2018 and beyond, find some yummy ways to include rabbit food. Best to you in 2018.