Berkeley Fit Blog

2019-02-25 12:39:00

Leafy Greens & Beets Are Good for the Brain

A study published in Neurology reported that nearly 1,000 healthy seniors who had daily helpings of leafy greens – spinach, kale, arugula, and collard greens -- had a slower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who ate little or no leafy greens.  Not surprising was that the consumption of green leafy vegetables correlated highly with the intake of inorganic nitrate, lutein, phylloquinone, and carotene which are abundant in leafy greens (1).

As a matter of fact, other studies have shown that the consumption of high-nitrate beet juice improved blood flow to areas of the brain known to be involved in short-term memory.  The brain map shown below shows higher cerebral blood flow to areas of brain involved with working memory after the consumption of nitrate-rich beets (2,3).

Within 2 hours after the consumption of leafy greens and beets, friendly bacteria within our mouths convert plant-derived nitrate to nitric oxide – a natural cardiovascular and neuroprotective factor -- to increase blood flow to vital organs such as the brain.

1. Morris MC, Wang Y, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Dawson-Hughes B, Booth SL. Nutrients and bio-actives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study. Neurology. 2018. 90: 214-222
2. Presley TD, Morgan AR, Bechtold E, Clodfelter W, Dove RW, Jennings JM, Kraft RA, King SB, Laurienti PJ, Rejeski WJ, Burdette JH, Kim-Shapiro DB, Miller GD. Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults.  Nitric Oxide. 2011. 24(1):34-42.
3. Wightman EL, Haskell-Ramsay CF, Thompson KG, Blackwell JR, Winyard PG, Forster J, Jones AM, Kennedy DO.  Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation. Physiol Behav. 2015. 149:149-58.