Vegetables Make You Smarter

March 2, 2011

green = astrocytes ("support" cells for the brain)

I just got back from watching our pro baseball players in Arizona, and the biggest challenge for these guys is finding enough vegetables in the desert, especially with the majority of the day spent hitting and throwing a baseball. So rather than reiterate the cliché to just eat more vegetables, we can start with the most important place vegetables affect, your nervous system

We have already discussed the variety of nutrients in fruits and vegetables (see SpartaPoint 12/1/10), as well as the benefits of vegetables in making the blood more alkaline to create an environment of growth (see SpartaPoint 4/14/10). But a 2007 review out of the University of Reading in the UK, discusses a more novel benefit of these nutrients other than just being antioxidants.

The author of the review, Jeremy Spencer, is one of the world’s experts on dietary nutrients’ interaction with the nervous system, and he discussed how phytochemicals have several benefits on memory and cognition, both enhancing and preventing decrements. In particular, phytochemicals suppress the activation of astrocytes, which are cells in the brain and spine that mediate inflammation, possibly a major action in protecting the nervous system.

Phytochemicals also provide a performance benefit to the nervous system, enhancing synaptic plasticity (see Sparta Point 1/26/11), which occurs when the connection between two neurons changes to either increase or decrease the speed at which signals are carried. Some would argue that a faster connection speed might help your athletic abilities.

So eat your vegetables, 5-6 times a day, using a variety of colors. Throw any vegetable into your scramble, have a salad for lunch and dinner, and included some raw/quick options like celery or bell peppers to snack on in between.

These nutrient dense foods will help your muscles recover from exercise through antioxidants and an alkaline environment, yet most importantly maintain your nervous system speed. But if you ever watched Popeye, you already knew that.

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