The other day I was reading about a study that found that you can slow brain aging by eating a daily serving of leafy green veggies. I immediately went to the kitchen and started to make broccoli soup with handfuls of baby spinach.
Kidding. Sort of.
The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, found that cognitive decline was slower in adults (ages 58 – 99) who were in the top 20% of leafy green intake. The link was strongest in diets rich in nutrients found in leafy greens, including folate and lutein.
There are a couple of caveats.
One, the study used a food frequency questionnaire to report usual intake of various foods. Most people have a tough remembering what they ate for breakfast today, never mind what they ate over the past day, week or month. So, it’s a bit of a guesstimate.
Two, association isn’t the same as causation. In other words, if you eat a lot leafy greens, you might have better brain health, but that could be because leaf eaters are also healthier in other brain-boosting habits, like exercise.
Eating more dark leafy greens is definitely a good thing. Leafy greens can boost heart health (thanks in part to folate and fibre), and if there’s a possibility they might help keep your brain in good working order, then I say, “Bring on the broccoli”! (and kale and arugula and…you get the idea).
While broccoli might not have the super star status of kale, it definitely deserves to be on your dinner plate – or in your soup bowl! Here are a few nutritional benefits of choice that together make broccoli brilliant:
Sulphurophane. Broccoli is a cruciferous veggie, in the same family as kale, arugula, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Eating lots of cruciferous veggies has been linked with reduced risk of certain cancers (e.g. colon cancer) due to this sulphur-containing compound.
Folate. Broccoli is full of folate – a nutrient that’s linked with heart health and potentially reduces risk breast cancer.
Vitamin K. This vitamin is important for keeping your bones healthy in part by improving calcium absorption. (Broccoli has vitamin K, but the spinach in this soup has more than double broccoli!)
Vitamin C. This vitamin is linked with heart health and lowered risk of cancer. Beauty bonus: Your skin needs this antioxidant vitamin to stay healthy. Just one cup of broccoli gives you more vitamin C than you need in a day!
Broccoli is low in calories but full of fibre, which is important for digestion and keeping you feeling full (good for managing munchies).
Broccoli is also low in calories but full of fibre, which is important for keeping your digestive system healthy and happy. Fibre also helps you feel full and that’s good for managing munchies.
Need more reason to eat broccoli? It goes great with cheese. Seriously. Try it in this soup. It’s a smart choice. (Get it, smart choice? Brain health? Yep, I went there…)
Simply Vibrant Broccoli Soup
Makes: 4 dinner-size servings
1 large shallot, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 big bunch broccoli, washed and cut into “trees”
3 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
4 cups (1 L) no added salt chicken broth
1 package (300 g) silken (soft) tofu
1 tsp (5 mL) thyme
½ (2 mL) teaspoon salt
½ (2 mL) teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch hot pepper flakes
1 cup (250 mL) old cheddar cheese
How to Make:
In a large pot, over medium heat, sauté the shallot in olive oil until slightly softened. Add the garlic, sauté for about 30 seconds.
Add broccoli, spinach and broth to the pot. Simmer until broccoli is tender – about 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in tofu, thyme, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes.
Remove from heat. Puree with an immersion blender directly in the pot (or in small batches in a blender). Add more broth if desired, reheat until warmed through.
Adjust seasoning to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with grated old cheddar.
Download a printable version of this recipe.
Morris MC et al Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline. Dec 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815
Canadian Nutrient File (v2015)
The Many Benefits of Broccoli https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266765.php
Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
Folate Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health:
Food Sources of Vitamin K http://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=11728&trid=13693&trcatid=467 (access by members only)