By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a hard concept, especially this time of year when sweets and Christmas cookies are everywhere, but as Dr. Mallika Marshall reports, researchers at Tufts University believe a salad a day may keep dementia away.

Pedro Velazquez is hitting the salad bar for lunch. He’s doing his best to get more greens into his diet.

“I’ve been trying to get rid of this (belly) for a while now so I go to the gym, then I come have a salad and I go to work,” explains Pedro.

New research in the journal Neurology suggests eating salad could also help keep his memory in good shape.

Sarah Booth, PhD Interim Director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and the lead study author.

“What we found is that older adults who consumed leafy greens in their diet, the equivalent of about a cup and a half a day,” explains Booth, “they have lower risk of developing memory deficits associated with dementia.”

The study followed 960 people for about 5 years and focused on green, leafy vegetables such as cooked spinach, kale and collard greens and raw lettuce salad.

The study found those who ate the most leafy greens were 11 years younger in brain age compared to those who ate the least.

Booth says while the study doesn’t prove leafy vegetables can slow brain aging, incorporating them in your diet can only help.

“There are so many other chronic diseases that the onset and progression is delayed from consuming leafy greens because the leafy greens contain many nutrients,” says Booth. “My advice to the general public is to consume a healthy dose of green leafy vegetables every day.”

That’s what Pedro is trying to do.

“I used to eat a lot of fried food and Spanish food,” says Pedro. “Now I’m trying to eat healthy.”

Pedro is eating two to three servings of greens each week now, but says he may start serving up more salad for his body and mind.

Researchers say it’s best to choose greens with dark leaves because the darker the leaves, the more nutrients they have.


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