Anyone with young children can tell you how difficult it is to get kids to finish their vegetables. The nightly battle follows the same pattern of stubborn refusal from the child and desperate pleading from the parent.
Life would be much easier for parents if macaroni and cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs had the incredible health benefits of vegetables. Eating plenty of vegetables isn’t just crucial for small children that are still growing.
Fully developed adults also need to ensure they’re getting their recommended daily value of vegetables. According to the CDC, adults should eat between two and three cups of vegetables every day. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans fail to meet these requirements.
Skipping the veggie portion of your meal will mean you’ll miss out on tons of essential nutrients your body needs to function. Skipping your veggies can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies, weight gain, constipation, fatigue, and hemorrhoids. Vegetables suddenly don’t sound so bad when you consider these alternatives.
Vegetables are more than just healthy for your body. Veggies are healthy for your mind as well. Scientific research has found that certain nutrients are highly beneficial for boosting brain function.
If you’re looking to improve your brain power, you should eat more of these 12 vegetables:
Asparagus has a poor reputation as being the one vegetable that can make your pee smell funny. While this fact is unfortunately true, there is much more to asparagus.
For starters, asparagus has a very low calorie-to-nutrient ratio. You’ll get a ton of fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K without having to worry about the calories.
Asparagus is especially beneficial for brain function because of its high concentration of vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Studies have shown that B12 deficiencies are associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline.
According to a recent poll, beets were narrowly defeated by turnips as the most hated vegetable in America. There is no denying the fact that the taste of beets is not for everyone.
However, there are a lot of benefits that come from eating beets. In particular, beets are great for your digestive system due to their high amount of fiber and ability to promote good bacteria growth in your gut.
The primary benefit that beets offer your brain is an increase in nitrates. Beets have an abundance of nitrates which help to dilate your blood vessels. By widening your blood vessels, nitrates help improve blood flow throughout your body and into your brain. The excess blood will allow oxygen and essential nutrients to find their way to your brain faster than usual.
Getting a child to eat broccoli is about as easy as giving a cat a bubble bath.
Scientists decided to investigate why many children despise broccoli. They concluded that broccoli tastes bad to some children due to certain enzymes in their spit. It’s a shame, as broccoli might be the best vegetable for brain health.
The primary reason is that broccoli is full of a compound called glucosinolates. Whenever your body breaks down glucosinolates, it naturally creates another compound called isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates play a prominent role in protecting your brain cells from toxins, inflammation, oxidation, injury, and death. If you only eat one vegetable, choosing broccoli might be a good idea!
4. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts have a somewhat unique history compared to the other vegetables on this list. Records show that the vegetable can be traced back to Brussels as far back as the 13th century, showing that Brussels sprouts get their name from a city in Belgium.
But there’s more to Brussels sprouts than just a cool backstory. They’re also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that support positive cardiovascular, skin, immune, and energy function, as well as play a crucial role in several brain functions. One of the key benefits of omega-3s is its role in the healthy creation of brain cells. Omega-3s also appear to play a role in learning and memory as well as neuronal plasticity.
Each type of cabbage is packed full of nutrients that can provide plenty of health benefits. However, the purple variety of cabbage is especially beneficial for your brain. The reason is that purple cabbage has a slightly higher concentration of the antioxidant anthocyanin. The excess anthocyanin is what gives purple cabbage its unique color.
Anthocyanin is more than just natural food coloring. It’s also a potential way to increase your learning ability, memory, and motor skills. These possible benefits are because anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain barrier, suggesting that they can inhibit the effects of neuronal death.
You’ve probably heard that eating carrots is an easy way to improve your eyesight. Unfortunately, it seems this rumor might have gotten started as a little white lie during World War II. Carrots are fairly beneficial for your eyes due to their high levels of vitamin A, but the eyesight benefits aren’t as intense as Grandpa likes to make them seem.
Carrots are very beneficial for your brain function, though. Carrots have a very high concentration of a compound called luteolin. Studies have shown that luteolin can inhibit brain microglia activity during aging. By preventing this neuroinflammation, luteolin appears to help support brain health and boost cognitive clarity.
Cauliflower is considered a superfood because of its high content of nutrients. You can get plenty of fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids, glucosinolates, and B vitamins from eating cauliflower. The main reason cauliflower makes this list is because it has a very high concentration of choline.
Choline is one of the most important nutrients in eggs and plays a crucial role in neurotransmitter function. Getting enough choline in your diet seems to help increase the density of dopamine receptors and combat memory loss and impairment.
Collards contain many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium. Another vitamin that collards have an abundance of is vitamin K. This particular vitamin is what makes collards such a valuable option for improving brain function.
Vitamin K is critical to the nervous system because of its involvement in sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids are a complex class of lipids (fats) that play a role in various cellular processes. Sphingolipid metabolism refers to the regulation of these cellular processes. In other words, vitamin K can help support your neuron health, motor skills, and communication abilities.
9. Green Peas
Strictly speaking, green peas are a legume and not a vegetable. However, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines consider them starchy vegetables, so they’re making this list. While they might be very tiny, peas still pack a nutritional punch.
Green peas contain fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K, thiamine, folate, manganese, iron, and phosphorus. Not too shabby for something so small it fits into a pod.
Peas make this list due to their concentration of vitamin C. There are a few different benefits that vitamin C provides for the brain. For starters, vitamin C helps your brain cells properly use neurotransmitter chemicals such as dopamine. It also helps neurons to mature, generate brain cells, and maintain neural connections.
Chock full of vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium, kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Few foods can beat kale in terms of the daily recommended values of these nutrients.
One of the most important benefits of eating kale is that it will supply you with lutein. The primary benefit of lutein is that it’s a powerful antioxidant that can help combat damage from free radicals.
It’s a common misconception that spinach has an overabundance of iron. Spinach has roughly the same iron as any other leafy green vegetable. However, spinach is rich in many other essential nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.
Spinach also has a high folate concentration that can benefit brain function. Folate plays a crucial role in constructing myelin and neurotransmitters responsible for transmitting signals in the brain. Folate deficiencies have been linked to several mental health symptoms, including cognitive decline.
12. Sweet Potatoes
Technically, sweet potatoes are not potatoes, as they are considered root vegetables instead of tubers. White potatoes and sweet potatoes both contain plenty of nutrients, but sweet potatoes make this list because they’re rich in beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is a type of antioxidant that can pass the blood-brain barrier and appears to help protect against mental decline. The most likely reason is that beta-carotene can help prevent cellular damage that brain neurons might experience due to oxidative stress.
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Following a diet that helps you get your recommended daily value of vegetables is an excellent start to improving your body’s and brain’s health. After you start to experience the benefits, you might even find yourself returning for seconds of your favorite veggie.
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Beta Carotene May Help Keep the Brain Young | Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
What is a Sweet Potato? | Sweetpotatoes.eu
Folic Acid, Ageing, Depression, and Dementia | PMC
Vitamin C Function in the Brain: Vital Role of the Ascorbate Transporter | PMC
Legume of the Month: Peas | Harvard Health
Vitamin K and Brain Function | PUBMED
Choline - Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury | NCBI Bookshelf
Dietary Luteolin Reduces Proinflammatory Microglia in the Brain of Senescent Mice | PMC
Fact or Fiction?: Carrots Improve Your Vision | Scientific American
Anthocyanins and Their Metabolites as Therapeutic Agents for Neurodegenerative Disease | PMC
When It Comes To Red Cabbage, More Is Better | ScienceDaily
Isothiocyanates Are Promising Compounds Against Oxidative Stress, Neuroinflammation and Cell Death that May Benefit Neurodegeneration in Parkinson's Disease | PMC
Mouth Bacteria May Explain Why Some Kids Hate Broccoli | Live Science
Nitrates/Nitrites in Food—Risk for Nitrosative Stress and Benefits | PMC
Poll Reveals Americans' Favorite -- and Most Hated -- Vegetables | WDRB.com
Association Between Vitamin B12 Levels and Cognitive Function in the Elderly Korean Population | PMC
Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell? | Cleveland Clinic
Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables | CDC Online Newsroom
Fruit and Vegetable Intake: Benefits and Progress of Nutrition Education Interventions | PMC