Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vegetables may be the Key to Staying Sharp

By Brandi M. Seals

Finally some news has come out that should prompt all moms to make sure kids are getting enough servings of vegetables in their diet. Recent research on vegetables and aging suggests that eating vegetables actually is beneficial. Vegetable consumption appears to help the brain stay young and it may slow the mental decline that people go through as they age.

The vegetables seem to help older individuals keep their mental sharpness. Older men and women who ate at least three servings of vegetables a day appear to have a measured mental sharpness of someone about five years younger than those who ate few or no vegetables during the course of the six-year study.

Just because the study was only done on older individuals does not mean that you should let your kids skip their veggies now. Kids develop eating habits at a young age that they will take with them forever. Try to expose children to lots of different vegetables. They are more inclined to try them at a young age then when they get older. If your kids are picky eaters, try having them help you prepare dinner. Kids are much more likely to eat something they helped make.

The study was published in this week's issue of the journal Neurology and funded from grants given by the National Institute on Aging. The researchers studied nearly 2,000 Chicago-area men and women in the study. While the research does not prove that vegetables reduce mental decline, it does add to mounting evidence pointing in that direction.

Not all vegetables are equal when it comes to keeping the mind young. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and mustard greens appeared to be the most beneficial. While the researches are not exactly sure why that is, they believe it may be because the leafy greens contain vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant believed to help fight chemicals produced by the body that can damage cells.

Try specifically to incorporate these foods in you and your child's diet. But of course, keep eating all types of vegetables. You may also wish to get kids hooked on fresh fruit too. Fruit is very good for you, but it does not help slow natural mental decline.

Vegetables may be more helpful than fruits in this area for a number of reasons. Veggies usually contain more vitamin E than fruits and they are also often eaten with healthy fats such as olive oil, which help the body absorb vitamin E and other antioxidants.

In addition, these fats from healthy oils can help keep cholesterol low and help arteries stay clear. Both of these would of course help the brain stay healthy.

The study involved 1,946 people aged 65 and older who answered questions about their eating habits. For the study, a serving of vegetables equaled about a half-cup of chopped vegetables or one cup of raw leafy green.

Those involved in the study had their mental function tested three times during the course of the six year study. The tests measured short-term and delayed memory.

As expected, most people gradually did worse on the tests as they aged, but those who ate more than two vegetable servings a day experienced about 40 percent less mental decline than those who ate few or no vegetables.

If you and your family are currently eating a diet that is not the healthiest, perhaps it is time to make a change. Fresh vegetables and fruits are not expensive. They can be picked up anywhere that you buy groceries. And, they can help set kids up on a healthy track. There really is no excuse why one cannot incorporate vegetables in their diet.

If you cannot use fresh veggies before they go bad, by all means invest in canned or frozen vegetable alternatives. They will not have as many vitamins and nutrients as their fresh counterparts, but they are better than nothing. If you grew up in a house like mine where the only vegetables served were corn and potatoes, you may not know how to prepare other vegetables. But do not worry, veggies are easy to prepare. Simply go online to search for recipes, flip through a cookbook or two, or ask someone you know who eats a lot of vegetables.

No comments: