A cup of leafy green vegetables a day improves muscle strength, regardless of physical activity, according to a new study from Edith Cowan University (ECU). The researchers found that people who consumed a diet rich in nitrates, mainly from vegetables, had significantly better muscle function.
The investigation was focused on data from more than 3,700 participants Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute AusDiab study. Individuals with the highest nitrate consumption had 11 percent stronger lower limb strength compared to those with the lowest nitrate intake.
Study lead author Dr. Marc Sim said the findings reveal important evidence for the role diet plays in overall health.
“Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity,” said Dr. Sim.
“Nevertheless, to optimise muscle function we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal.”
Muscle function is critical for maintaining good overall health, especially bone strength later in life.
“With around one in three Australians aged over 65 suffering a fall each year, it’s important to find ways of preventing these events and their potentially serious consequences.”
Dr. Sim noted that while leafy green vegetables may be some of our least favorite, they could be the most important. The greatest health benefits were linked to lettuce, spinach, kale and beetroot.
“Less than one in ten Australians eat the recommended five to six serves of vegetables per day,” said Dr. Sim.
“We should be eating 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.”
Dr. Sim said the next step of his research will be exploring strategies to increase leafy green vegetable consumption in the general population.
“We are currently recruiting for the MODEL Study, which examines how knowledge of disease can be used to prompt people in making long-term improvements to their diet and exercise.”
The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.