Tips for Healthy Living (Eat Well, Age Well)
We are what we eat and most of us growing up eating a lot of junk oblivious of the implications in our latter years.
The good news is that it is never too late to start eating healthy albeit the earlier the better. To age well and slow the rate of cognitive decline, we must eat well. A lot of evidence shows that healthy diets foster great health and protect the brain.
A recent study published in Neurology finds that healthy seniors who had daily helpings of leafy green vegetables had a slower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who tended to eat little or no greens. It is recommended that we add to our daily diet Efo, Ugwu, Ewedu, Okra, Waterleaf, kale, Spinach, etc.
“The association is quite strong,” says study author Martha Clare Morris, a professor of nutrition science at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She also directs the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging.
The research included 960 participants of the Memory and Aging Project. Their average age is 81, and none of them have dementia. Each year the participants undergo a battery of tests to assess their memory. Scientists also keep track of their eating habits and lifestyle habits.
To analyze the relationship between leafy greens and age-related cognitive changes, the researchers assigned each participant to one of five groups, according to the amount of greens eaten. Those who tended to eat the most greens comprised the top quintile, consuming, on average, about 1.3 servings per day. Those in the bottom quintile said they consume little or no greens.
After about five years of follow-up/observation, “the rate of decline for [those] in the top quintile was about half the decline rate of those in the lowest quintile,” Morris says.
To preserve our health, the most convenient way is to eat our main meal with vegetable soup or add a bowl of salad with leafy greens to our daily menu. A plate of plantain flour with ugwu soup or brown rice with eforiro sounds like a good idea. Although we cannot rule out good genes and the grace of God in our lives, other healthy habits such as joining an association, being active mentally and physically within the community are strongly advised.
Morris says, even after adjusting for other factors that might play a role, such as a lifestyle, education, and overall health, “we saw this association [between greens and a slower rate of cognitive decline] over and above accounting for all those factors.”
Another study of women published in 2006 also found that high consumption of vegetables was associated with less cognitive decline among older women. The association was strongest with greater consumption of leafy vegetables, broccoli, and cauliflower.
In addition, there is evidence that a Mediterranean-style diet — which emphasizes a pattern of eating that is rich in fish, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains — may help stave off chronic diseases. Turns out, these vegetables contain a range of nutrients and bioactive compounds including vitamin E and K, lutein, beta carotene, and folate.
“They have different roles and different biological mechanisms to protect the brain,” says Morris. More research is needed, she says, to fully understand their influence, but scientists know that consuming too little of these nutrients can be problematic.
“if you have insufficient levels of folate in your diet you can have higher levels of homocysteine,” Morris says. This can set the stage for inflammation and a buildup of plaque, or fatty deposits, inside your arteries, which increases the risk of stroke. Research shows elevated homocysteine is associated with cognitive impairment among older adults. Getting plenty of Vitamin E from foods in your diet can help protect cells from damage and also has been associated with better cognitive performance.
“So, when you eat leafy greens, you’re eating a lot of different nutrients, and together they can have a powerful impact,” Morris says.