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Consuming Leafy Greens Could Help Reduce Risk For Alzheimer's, Dementia

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Ask people what they fear most about growing old and odds are you'll hear Alzheimer's and dementia.

As it turns out, there may be a simple and tasty way to reduce your risk for progressive neurological diseases.

Mom always told you to eat your veggies, right? More often than not, they were green. Those leafy greens contain important nutrients that may just hold off dementia.

In other words, a salad a day keeps the doctor away.

Pedro Velazquez has recently been hitting the salad bar for lunch. He's doing his best to get more veggies into his diet.

"I've been trying to get rid of this for a while now, so I go to the gym then I come home, have a salad, and go to work," he tells CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.

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

"Older adults who consume leafy greens in their diet -- the equivalent of about a cup and a half a day -- they have lower risk of developing memory deficits associated with dementia," Dr. Sarah Booth from the Tufts University Nutrition Research Center On Aging said.

The study followed 960 people for about five years and focused on green, leafy vegetables such as cooked spinach, kale and collard greens, and raw lettuce salad. It found that 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 si delayed from consuming leafy greens because the leafy greens contain many nutrients," she said.

That's exactly what Pedro is trying to do.

"I used to eat a lot of fried food and Spanish food," he said. "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. Leafy greens also have been linked to a reduction in cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

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