In a new study, researchers found that eating just one cup of leafy green vegetables every day could boost muscle function.
They found that people who ate a nitrate-rich diet, predominantly from vegetables, had much better muscle function of their lower limbs.
The findings reveal important evidence for the role diet plays in overall health.
The research was conducted by a team at Edith Cowan University.
Muscle function is vital for maintaining good overall health, especially bone strength later in life.
Poor muscle function is linked to a greater risk of falls and fractures and is considered a key indicator of general health and wellbeing.
While leafy greens may be some of our least favorite vegetables, they could be the most important, according to the team.
In the study, they examined data from 3,759 Australians over a 12-year period.
They found those with the highest regular nitrate consumption had 11% stronger lower limb strength than those with the lowest nitrate intake. Up to 4% faster walking speeds were also recorded.
Nitrate-rich vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, kale and even beetroot, provided the greatest health benefits.
The findings suggest that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster muscle strength independently of any physical activity.
The researchers say to optimize muscle function, a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal.
People should eat a variety of vegetables every day, with at least one of those serves being leafy greens to gain a range of positive health benefits for the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system.
It’s also better to eat nitrate-rich vegetables as part of a healthy diet rather than taking supplements. Green leafy vegetables provide a whole range of essential vitamins and minerals critical for health.
The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition. One author of the study is Dr. Marc Sim.
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