Green Leafy Vegetables: A Colourful Boost for Eye and Brain Health

Couple eating a carotenoid rich green vegetable salad to help with carotenoid deficiency.

As we age, taking care of our eyes and brain becomes increasingly important.

Fortunately, it is possible to get the nutrients we need from the foods we eat, particularly from green leafy vegetables.

These vibrant and nutritious greens are packed with carotenoids, which are plant-based pigments that give fruit and vegetables their bright beautiful colours. Three carotenoids in particular [Lutein, Meso-Zeaxanthin and Zeaxanthin] play a crucial role in promoting eye and brain health. In this article, we will explore the significance of incorporating green leafy vegetables into our diet to enhance our carotenoid intake and support our vision and cognitive function.

The Power of Carotenoids for Eye Health

While there are over fifty carotenoids in our diet, only three specific carotenoids, called lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin gather in the retina of our eyes. They function as a natural sunscreen, protecting our eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are excellent sources of these carotenoids. By regularly eating these greens, we can strengthen our eyes against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common eye conditions that can impact our vision as we age*.

Kale and chickpea salad rich in carotenoids
Green vegetables rich in carotenoids

Preserving Cognitive Function with Carotenoids

In addition to supporting eye health, carotenoids also play a vital role in maintaining cognitive function and brain health. Research suggests that lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin with their potent antioxidant properties, may help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress can lead to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. By increasing our intake of green leafy vegetables rich in carotenoids, we can potentially reduce the risk of these debilitating conditions.

Enhancing Absorption with Healthy Fats

To maximise the absorption of carotenoids from green leafy vegetables, it is important to eat them with healthy fats. Carotenoids are fat-soluble molecules, meaning they need dietary fats to be effectively absorbed by our bodies. Pairing green leafy vegetables with foods like sunflower oil, avocados, or nuts can help enhance the absorption of carotenoids, allowing us to reap their full benefits. So, a drizzle of oil on your spinach salad or adding some sliced avocado to your kale smoothie can make a significant difference in optimising carotenoid absorption.

Image showing carotenoid rich Kale which is known to help with alzheimer's disease
Carotenoids are natural pigments found in plants that produce red, orange, and yellow hues. In the case of the green smoothie, carotenoids are responsible for giving the mixture its vibrant green shade. These compounds not only add visual allure but also provide numerous health benefits, including antioxidant properties that help protect cells from damage.

Adding Green Leafy Vegetables into Your Diet

  1. Start your day with a nutrient-packed green smoothie featuring kale, spinach, and avocado.

  2. Add a generous handful of spinach to your omelettes or scrambled eggs.

  3. Create vibrant salads using a variety of leafy greens as a base and top them with colourful vegetables and a dressing.

  4. Experiment with stir-frying kale with garlic and olive oil for a delicious and nutritious side dish.

  5. Try adding greens into soups and stews, such as adding chopped spinach to a hearty vegetable soup.

Ultimately, green leafy vegetables have lots of benefits for our eye and brain health. By including these nutrient-dense greens in our diet, we can boost our carotenoid intake, supporting our vision and cognitive function as we age. Whether in salads, smoothies, or cooked dishes, let us make green leafy vegetables a regular part of our meals and nurture our bodies with the power of carotenoids.

If you avoid eating green leafy vegetables because they cause you digestive issues, why not consider using ReMind to boost your diet instead! 

Feeney J, Finucane C, Savva GM, et al. Low macular pigment optical density is associated with lower cognitive performance in a large, population-based sample of older adults. Neurobiol Aging. 2013;34(11):2449-2456. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.05.007*