Of all the foods you can eat to support a healthy brain, tons of nutrient-dense veggies fit the bill: broccoli, kale, spinach, and the list goes on. And according to nutrition and physiology expert Simon Hill, incorporating them all into your daily meals can seriously fuel your brainpower. In fact, he makes the case for a daily salad on the mindbodygreen podcast, with some pretty promising science backing it up.
Below, Hill explains how daily salads can keep your brain sharp, and, of course, shares some nutritious recipe inspiration.
The benefits of a daily salad for brain health.
Essentially, the brain-supporting benefits of salads are thanks to carotenoids, particularly lutein and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), which are found in dark, leafy greens. Hill references a study conducted by Chicago's Rush University Medical Center: According to the research, out of 960 participants, those who ate at least one serving of leafy green vegetables per day had brains that were operating 11 years younger than they actually were, compared to those who rarely ate those greens. The researchers propose it's the high content of antioxidants (like lutein, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol [aka, vitamin E]) that makes these greens so brain-healthy.
"That is a strong case for a daily salad," says Hill. In terms of which greens to fill your salad bowl, Hill is partial to spinach (which is also high in other brain-supporting nutrients, like vitamin K and folate), arugula (a cruciferous vegetable that contains the phytonutrient antioxidant sulforaphane), and collard greens (which are rich in fiber, calcium, folate, and a host of vitamins), but you can choose any dark, leafy base you please. We've listed the benefits of 16 healthy greens here if you'd like to browse.
And if you want to level up your daily bowl, feel free to sprinkle on a veggies powder—like mbg's organic veggies+—to sneak even more dark, leafy green ingredients into the meal. In addition to those brain-healthy superstars (broccoli, spinach, kale, and cabbage, to be specific), our specific blend is USDA-certified organic and packed with hard-to-find organic sea vegetables, like kelp and chlorella, as well as organic berries, herbs, prebiotic fiber, and more. The blend delivers a good source of fiber in each tablespoon and supports detoxification and healthy blood sugar levels.* It truly elevates any recipe—it's like the cherry (literally, organic veggies+ features organic acerola cherry) on top of a dense, brain-healthy salad.*
As for other fun toppings, Hill makes a case for some healthy fats: "We know that lutein is fat-soluble," he says. "So when you're having that salad, some olive oil, avocado, or nuts and seeds on it is going to help you absorb those carotenoids." Nuts and seeds also give the salad some texture (who doesn't love a good crunch?), and a glug of olive or avocado oil makes a pretty stellar dressing base, if you ask us.
According to Hill, eating a dark, leafy green salad every day can help fuel your brain and keep it sharp. Plus, there are tons of ways to customize your own brain-healthy bowl: Check out these tips to upgrade your greens.
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.