A study published in the Journal of Nutrition (March 24, 2021) found that the consumption of leafy greens, which are high in nitrate, helps boost muscle function.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 3,700 Australians who participated in Melbourne's Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute AusDiab study over a 12-year period. Those who consumed a nitrate-rich diet, mostly from vegetables, demonstrated better muscle function of their lower limbs, with 11% stronger lower limb strength and about 4% faster walking speeds (compared to those with the lowest nitrate intake).
"Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity," said Dr. Marc Sim from ECU's Institute for Nutrition Research. "Nevertheless, 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."
According to the researchers, the nitrate-rich vegetables that provide the most benefit include lettuce, spinach, kale and beetroot. They are currently working on a new study that will examine how to increase such vegetable intake among the general population.