New York Add five years of memory to the list of reasons vegetables are good for you.
Consuming more than two servings of veggies a day slowed cognitive decline by 40 percent, giving healthy, older eaters the thinking ability of people five years younger, according to a study in today's issue of the journal Neurology.
"The older you were, the better vegetables seemed to be in preserving or retaining your memory," said Martha Clare Morris, an epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.
For six years, Morris followed Chicagoans whose average age was 65. Those who ate lots of vegetables - especially the leafy green ones known to protect against age-related cognitive decline - scored better on memory tests.
It's not clear why vegetables enhance the brain, but other studies have shown that Vitamin E has a protective effect. That nutrient comes in hefty doses in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and collards, Morris said.
Although fruit also contains antioxidants that clear toxins from the body, it doesn't help preserve memory, the study found. That may be because fruit isn't usually eaten with fats like salad dressing that are added to vegetable dishes, Morris said.
"People who consume the healthy fats - vegetable oils and vegetable fats - also have lower decline in thinking ability and lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. They help absorb the Vitamin E and there appears to be an important effect of the fats themselves," she said.