A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition has found that eating one cup of leafy green vegetables every day can boost your muscle function. The research followed 3759 Australians over a 12-year period and found that those who at the most nitrates, which are abundant in leafy greens, had 11 percent more lower limb strength and walking speeds up to 4 percent faster.
Vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, and beetroot are rich in nitrates. Your body converts nitrates into nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and improves circulation. Benefits include lower blood pressure and improved exercise performance. The study showed that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables can improve your muscle strength independent of physical activity. For optimal muscle function though, a balanced diet that is rich in leafy green vegetables, along with regular exercise that includes weight training is best.
Don’t limit yourself to leafy green vegetables though, but instead make them one of at least five or six servings of vegetables that you eat every day. These veggies offer a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals for your health, and the benefits extend to the musculoskeletal as well as the cardiovascular system. Aim for a combined total of up to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, as recommended by the USDA.
While lettuce, spinach, kale, and beetroot showed the greatest effects in boosting muscle strength, other nitrate-rich vegetables include fennel, radishes, parsley, cabbage, chard, turnips, and arugula. Make sure to include at least one of these in your daily intake of fruits and vegetables.