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Healthy Eating

What are the best vegetables to keep your brain young?

Include these vegetable varieties in your meals for a sharper noggin. Here are the best vegetables to keep your brain young, says Dietitian.

There are plenty of activities that certainly help with boosting brain health—like learning new skills, reading, engaging in physical activity, and getting enough sleep. However, your diet is also a key element for keeping your brain “young” as you age, and including the right kind of vegetables on your plate will only help with keeping your brain smarter and sharper.

Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and a member of our medical expert board shared her insight on the types of vegetables to include in your diet in order to keep your brain young. Here are the veggies to grab on your next grocery run.

1. Leafy green vegetables

“Green leafy vegetables including kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens, are rich in vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene, and lutein, which all play an important role in brain health,” says Goodson. “These vegetables are high in antioxidants, which help fight cellular damage in our body. The less damage done to our cells, ultimately the healthier and stronger are bodies stay.”

One study published in Neurology suggests that consuming one serving of leafy green vegetables a day can help slow cognitive decline with aging.

Spinach nutrition facts

Three cups of spinach (85g) provide 20.4 calories, 2g of protein, 3g of carbohydrates, and zero fat. Spinach is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

Calories: 20.4
Fat: 0g
Sodium: 64.6 mg
Carbohydrates: 3g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 0g
Protein: 2g
Vitamin K: 410mcg
Vitamin C: 24mg
Potassium: 470mg

Carbs: Most of the carbohydrates in spinach are from fiber, making it a very filling vegetable. Along with other leafy greens, it may be considered a “free” food on a low-carbohydrate diet because it provides fiber while being low in calories.

Spinach also ranks close to zero on the glycemic index. This means that it will have minimal impact on your blood sugar levels.

Fats: There is no fat and no cholesterol in spinach. But adding a little fat to your spinach-containing meal may help your body absorb more of its beta-carotene—especially if the spinach is raw or in the form of a steamed puree.

Protein: There are 2 grams of protein in three cups of fresh spinach. That means spinach has almost as much protein as it does carbohydrates.

Vitamins and Minerals: Three cups of fresh spinach provide more than three times your daily vitamin K needs (340%). You also get roughly 25% of your recommended vitamin C intake and 10% of your suggested potassium intake from a three-cup serving of spinach.

Cooking spinach increases its concentration of vitamin A. You will get 64% of your daily value in a half-cup serving of boiled spinach.

Calories: There are approximately 20 calories in three cups of spinach, or just under 7 calories per cup. That makes its calorie count similar to that of kale, which provides 7.2 calories per cup (raw).

Read more: Spinach nutrition facts and health benefits that you should know

2. Cruciferous vegetables

Goodson suggests broccoli, which is one of the many cruciferous vegetables that can positively benefit your brain health. According to Northwestern Medicine, cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamin K, which has been linked to a sharper memory. These types of vegetables—including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, and more—are also a powerful source of folate, which is important for cognitive function and an aging brain.

Broccoli nutrition facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one cup (91g) of raw, chopped broccoli.

Calories: 31
Fat: 0.3g
Sodium: 30mg
Carbohydrates: 6g
Fiber: 2.4g
Sugars: 1.5g
Protein: 2.5g

Carbs: One cup of raw, chopped broccoli contains only 31 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and very little sugar (1.5 grams). More than a third of the carbohydrates found in broccoli come from fiber (2.4 grams), making it a filling, heart-healthy food choice.

The glycemic index (GI) for broccoli is 10. The glycemic index is an estimate of how a food affects your blood sugar levels. Broccoli is a low GI food, which means that it has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels.

Fat: Broccoli has only a trace amount of fat and is cholesterol-free. It does, however, contain a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Consuming two cups of broccoli delivers nearly 0.5 grams of this anti-inflammatory fatty acid.

Protein: For a vegetable, broccoli has a significant amount of protein, 2.5 grams per one-cup serving. But you still should include other protein sources in your diet to meet your daily needs.

Vitamins and Minerals: Broccoli is bursting with vitamins and minerals. It’s an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C, providing over 81mg, or about 135% of your daily needs. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K, important in bone health and wound healing. You’ll consume 116% of your daily recommended intake in a one-cup serving of broccoli. It’s also a very good source of the B vitamin folate, and a good source of vitamin A, manganese, potassium, and other B vitamins.

Read more: Broccoli nutrition facts and health benefits that you should know

3. Orange veggies

“Sweet potatoes and other orange veggies such as carrots, red peppers, and butternut squash, are great sources of beta-carotene,” says Goodson. “Beta-carotene has been linked to improved cognitive health due to its antioxidant effects. Remember, antioxidants are the good guys that fight the bad guys (free radicals) that cause damage to our cells.”

Beta-carotene is even boasted as a potentially useful treatment for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, according to a Biomolecules study.

Carrot nutrition facts

One medium-sized carrot (61g) provides 25 calories, 0.5g of protein, 6g of carbohydrates, and 0g of fat. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin K, fiber, and vitamin A. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

Calories: 25
Fat: 0g
Sodium: 42mg
Carbohydrates: 6g
Fiber: 1.5g
Sugars: 2.9g
Protein: 0.5g
Vitamin A: 509mcg
Vitamin K: 8mcg

Carbs: A cup (128g) of chopped raw carrots has 12.3 grams of carbohydrates, with 3.6 grams of fiber and 6.1 grams of natural sugars. The glycemic index for boiled carrots is low, ranging from 35 to 43.

Fats: Carrots have minimal amounts of fat (nearly 0g for one medium carrot and just 0.3g for a cup of chopped carrot), the majority of which is polyunsaturated.

Protein: Carrots are not particularly high in protein. A cup of carrots has just 1.2 grams of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals: Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A—specifically beta carotene, which is responsible for their orange color. Carrots also offer potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, vitamin E, and vitamin K.

Calories: One medium-sized carrot (61g) provides 25 calories, with 86% coming from carbs, 9% from protein, and 5% from fat.

4. Beets

“Beets are a rich source of nitrates and folic acid, which both contribute to optimal brain health,” says Goodson. “Nitrates increase blood flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function. Folic acid, also known as B9, has been shown to help reduce the risk of several neurological and psychological disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and depression.”

Beet nutrition facts

One cup of raw red beetroot (136g) provides 58 calories, 2.2g of protein, 13g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. Beets are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. The following nutritional information is provided by the USDA.

Calories: 58
Fat: 0.2g
Sodium: 106mg
Carbohydrates: 13g
Fiber: 3.8g
Sugars: 9.2g
Protein: 2.2g
Potassium: 442mg


One cup of raw beets contains about the same amount of calories and carbohydrate as one serving of fruit. The carbohydrates in beets come from both naturally occurring sugar (9.2 grams per 1 cup serving) and dietary fiber (just under 4 grams per serving). Fiber helps to regulate blood sugars, increases feelings of fullness, and can help lower blood cholesterol.

The estimated glycemic index of beets is 64, making it a high glycemic food. However, the glycemic load (which factors in serving size) is only 4; a GL under 4 is considered low.


There is almost no fat in a single serving of beets. The small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat, which is considered a healthy fat. Keep in mind that preparation methods may add fat to beets. If you roast beets using olive oil, for example, you’ll consume more fat.


Beets are not a high protein food, but you will get a small boost of the important macronutrient when you consume a single serving of beets. Each cup provides just over 2 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Beets are a very good source of folate and manganese and a good source of potassium. Folate is important for DNA synthesis and preventing neural tube defects in pregnancy, while manganese is a component of antioxidant enzymes and helps break down glucose and proteins. Potassium may help to reduce blood pressure.


One cup of raw red beetroot (136g) provides 58 calories, 83% of which come from carbs, 13% from protein, and 4% from fat.

Read more: What vegetable is best for lowering your blood pressure?

Source: Eatthis/Verywellfit!

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