If you want to improve your muscle function, regular helpings of leafy green vegetables might do the trick, new research suggests.
“Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity,” said lead author Marc Sim, from the Institute for Nutrition Research at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.
His team’s analysis showed that people with highest dietary intake of nitrates, primarily from vegetables, had 11% stronger lower limb strength than those with the lowest intake.
Those with high nitrate levels in their diet also had up to 4% faster walking speeds, according to the study published March 24 in the Journal of Nutrition.
Nitrate-rich vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale and beetroot provided the greatest health benefits, the researchers found.
The findings, culled from data on nearly 3,800 volunteers, show the important role that diet plays in overall health, according to Sim.
“To optimize muscle function we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal,” Sim added in a university news release.
“Muscle function is vital for maintaining good overall health, especially bone strength later in life,” he noted.
Everyone should eat a variety of vegetables every day with at least one serving of leafy greens “to gain a range of positive health benefits for the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system,” Sim advised.
“It’s also better to eat nitrate-rich vegetables as part of a healthy diet rather than taking supplements,” he said. “Green leafy vegetables provide a whole range of essential vitamins and minerals critical for health.”
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about healthy eating.