Crunch on This for Better Brain Health

You may have heard of salmon and blueberries being referred to as "brain foods," thanks to their nutritional properties that help keep the brain healthy. Now a new study suggests that certain vegetables qualify as brain foods as well. Veggies—specifically crunchy, colorful ones such as celery, peppers, and carrots—contain a plant compound called luteolin, which works to tamp down inflammation in the brain that can cause problems with memory. The result? People who eat luteolin-rich foods may avoid the memory problems that often go hand-in-hand with aging.

Luteolin: The Anti-Inflammatory Compound
For about a decade, scientists at the University of Illinois have been studying the anti-inflammatory properties of luteolin and similar compounds. Their latest study, carried out on mice, demonstrates how luteolin might work its magic in the brain.

As the body ages, or when it is faced with an infection, cells in the brain and spinal cord (called microligal cells) produce inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. Cytokines cause changes in the brain, including memory loss. But foods containing high levels of luteolin appear to prevent the microglial cells from producing excess neuron-killing cytokines. When fed a diet supplemented with luteolin for four weeks, the mice in the study were more successful at learning and memory tasks, and had lower levels of cytokines in their brains, than mice fed a control diet lacking luteolin.

What You Can Do: Incorporating Luteolin-Rich Foods Into Your Diet
How can you get luteolin into your diet? Eating nutritious foods such as celery, peppers, and carrots, which have high levels of luteolin, appears to prevent the microglial cells from producing a lot of cytokines. Olive oil and herbs such as peppermint, rosemary, and chamomile have the same effect. So amp up your luteolin intake with this mouth-watering meal:

Memory-Boosting Salad
Enjoy this delicious dish for lunch or dinner.

  • On a large bed of greens, combine diced celery, carrots, and red or green peppers.
  • Add a few ounces of cooked lean protein, such as turkey, chicken, or shrimp.
  • Toss with olive oil and vinegar, and a handful of fresh rosemary leaves.

Finish with a steaming mug of chamomile or peppermint tea, then enjoy the daily crossword or word puzzle for an additional brain workout!



Yates D. "Compound in Celery, Peppers Reduces Age-Related Memory Deficits." Web. 13 Oct. 2010. News Bureau/Public Affairs, University of Illinois.