Eating at least one serving of leafy green vegetables per day is associated with a slower decline in memory and thinking skills, according to a study published in Neurology.

Researchers questioned 960 people with an average age of 81 about how often they ate leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collard greens and Romaine lettuce. None of the study participants had dementia at the start of the study. Investigators followed participants for an average of more than four years, during which time they evaluated their thinking skills and memory at yearly intervals, and asked about how often they ate certain foods.

Over 10 years of follow-up, the rate of decline for people who ate the most leafy greens was much slower than those in the group that ate the least. The difference was equivalent to being 11 years younger in age. The results remained constant even after accounting for other factors that can affect brain health, such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, education level and the amount of physical and cognitive activities the participants engaged in regularly.

While this study design cannot establish that eating more leafy greens actually causes memory improvement and delayed brain aging, it does suggest an association. In any event, making these vegetables a more common sight on your plate is certainly a good idea. Leafy greens are packed with antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, as well as folic acid. Consuming each of these nutrients is associated with better brain health.

This article originally appeared in Mind, Mood & Memory, a publication of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, dedicated to maintaining mental fitness for middle age and beyond.

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