Popeye is the go-to representation of the health benefits associated with eating spinach. The sailor man ate the green plant to bulk up his muscles, but what he probably didn't know was that the spinach was keeping his brain healthy, too.
Spinach is known to have the ability to restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of the blood, but now it may also help to slow age-related cognitive decline, a new study revealed.
One serving of spinach - or any other leafy green - daily can halt mental decline by 11 years due to the presence of vitamin K in the plant, according to the Huffington Post.
Spinach is highly nutritious and rich in iron and various different vitamins, and previous studies have identified both folate and beta-carotene (an antioxidant that works to fight heart disease and cancer) as brain boosters, but this is the first study to analyze vitamin K and brain health.
Other vegetables, such as kale and collard greens, could also protect the brain from cognitive decline, Huff Post reported.
Researchers at Rush University in Chicago discovered that those who incorporated greens into their diets suffered less cognitive decline, regardless of other factors such as exercise and family medical history.
The researchers analyzed the diets and mental functions of 954 elderly people (with an average age of 81) for a 5-year period, and found that the participants who ate leafy greens had the cognitive function of people 11 years younger who did not eat spinach.
Martha Clare Morris, who led the study, said the vitamin K in dark leafy greens is responsible for the brain benefits.
"Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer's disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain," she said.
Other vegetables that contain similar nutrients include asparagus, brussels sprouts and carrots. The research team plans on continuing their study to learn if these foods can provide the same benefits.
The study was presented at the Experimental Biology meeting on March 30.