You might want to throw in a bit more spinach the next time you prepare a salad. A recent study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that eating green leafy vegetables, especially spinach and kale, contributes not only to good physical health, but to cognitive health as well. The study, which included 60 adults aged 25 to 45, found that middle-aged participants with high levels of lutein (LOO-teen) in their body had neural responses more on a par with those of the group’s younger individuals than with their peers. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Aging. “The finding suggests that eating high quantities of lutein can slow cognitive decline,” said Stephanie May, a registered dietitian at Tidelands Health. “We derive health benefits from all the vegetables we eat, but leafy greens are key to a complete diet.” May speaks not only as an expert in nutrition but also from her background as an athlete, where she developed an interest in health and fitness that led to her career at Tidelands Health. “Lutein has long been known to be essential to the health of the eye,” she said. “To think that it could also be associated with good cognitive health is exciting news.” Still looking with distaste at that spinach on your plate? Cheer up. Lutein (from the Latin meaning “yellow”) also comes in carrots, egg yolks, and avocados, May said. It’s a nutrient that the body can’t make on its own. “The main thing throughout life is to eat a healthy and balanced diet,” May said. “You need right balance of animal or plant protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates to properly fuel your body.” If you have children, introduce them to a healthy diet at an early age. It may take children 15-20 tries before they begin to like a particular food. If a child is resistant, consider changing the way the food is prepared. Consider roasting, steaming, stir-frying or even offering the vegetables raw to determine what they prefer. . Avoid processed foods, she advised. “Mother Nature packages perfectly all that you need for good health,” May said. “Find out what works for you and your family. Try different things. In nutrition as in sports, a good offense is the best defense.” A balanced lifestyle, incorporating good nutrition and physical activity, is the best way to reduce your chance of chronic disease, she said.