Remember how you’d watch Popeye on television, hunch your arms over like a pro wrestler and say, “I’m strong to the finish ‘cuz I eats me spinach,” then go “yuck” at the idea of having to choke that dark green leaf down?   Well, I hate to tell you, but your mother was right- eating your vegetables is good for you!

A diet rich in magnesium, such as spinach and other dark leafy vegetables, is important in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body, and it also enhances memory fitness.

Recent research published in the journal Neuron shows accelerated learning, improved study skills and improved memory with the addition of more magnesium in your diet. Since learning and memory skills are basic functions of the brain, and affected by diet and other environmental factors, a diet high in dark green, leafy vegetables will definitely enhance memory and cognitive functions.

Researchers administered a compound of magnesium to both young and old rats. They found enhanced memory (short- and long-term) and accelerated learning abilities in all ages. The density of the connections between neurons increased in the hippocampus (the portion of the brain critical for learning and memory) with the addition of magnesium. With this research, scientists suggest that adding magnesium foods and supplements may be able to significantly slow age-related memory loss.

Earlier research, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, indicated a diet deficient in magnesium is associated with increased risk of strokes due to high blood pressure and diabetes. In order to maintain optimal memory fitness as we age, avoiding strokes are essential.

Good sources of magnesium in our diets, in addition to green vegetables rich in the chlorophyll molecules containing magnesium ions, are nuts (especially cashews and almonds); dark chocolate (great news for chocoholics); roasted soybeans; seeds; bran and some whole grains.

A word of caution however, if you are considering magnesium supplements: Although healthy kidneys can usually handle excessive magnesium levels from diet and supplements, too much magnesium may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Further research on the safety of magnesium supplements for humans is needed, so consult your physician before adding magnesium — or any supplements, to your diet.