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Veg Eaters Mentally Five Years Younger Than Old Meat Lovers

By Olivia Leigh in Food on Oct 24, 2006 6:54PM

Since Chicagoist started replacing red meat with veggies and tofu some seven years ago, folks back home have always thought us a bit crazy. Five years later we’d show up to Easter dinner only to have family members shocked that we still wouldn’t partake in the ham-eating. Thankfully for us, the teasing and concerns about our diet were never nearly as bad as those for our vegetarian, not to mention vegan, friends.

But now the joke’s on all y’all who keep loading up your plate with a juicy piece of Bessie instead of kale and artichokes, as new research shows that eating vegetables can help to stem mental decline by as much as 40 percent in elderly patients.

veg.jpgRush University Medical Center researchers gave food questionnaires to 3,718 residents, age 65 and older, on Chicago's South Side, and followed residents for six years, giving them at least two tests along the way. Although all patients did worse on the tests as years passed, those that ate 2.8 servings of vegetables per day experienced 40 percent less cognitive decline than those who ate just under one serving.

This slowdown is equivalent to about five years of younger age, compared to those studied who ate one serving or less per day.

Interestingly, the study showed that eating fruits did not appear to have the same benefits. Researchers hypothesize that while both fruits and veggies are high in antioxidants, chemicals that protect against diseases and infection, vegetables contain significantly more vitamin E, which has proven to reduce cognitive decline in previous studies.

In order to ensure your cogs are effectively turning, Rush University Medical Center recommends eating the following foods: Vegetables (especially dark, leafy); whole grains; fish (not fried); poultry; nuts and foods such as margarine and salad dressings that contain unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats. Avoid these bad eats, unless you want to end up, well, a vegetable: High-fat dairy products, fried foods, fatty meats and prepared foods containing trans fats.

Tasty looking veggies by Lex in the City