They may not be the most popular vegetables, but they are powerful sources of substances useful for our health. We are talking about leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach and kale. And now there is one more reason to ensure a regular intake of this type of vegetable. In fact, it has been observed that the intake of a cup of leafy greens a day improves muscle function, helping to prevent falls, and therefore fractures, and increasing strength in the legs. This is what emerges from a recent scientific research appeared in The Journal of Nutrition, thanks to the work of an Australian team (Sim et al, JN, 2021).
Why strong muscles mean also well-being
Nitrates and muscles, the experiment
It has already been observed, on the basis of previous studies, that particular substances, called nitrates, are able to increase the functionality of the muscles. This is why the researchers wondered if this protective effect could also be observed when nitrates are introduced through food, which is the simplest and healthiest way to integrate the substances you need into the body. In particular, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, kale, chard but also beetroot, are among the richest in nitrates. Therefore, Australian researchers, drawing on data collected from a large study, the Melbourne's Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute AusDiab, which lasted 12 years and which involved nearly 4,000 people, tried to understand if there is a link between the consumption of vegetables rich in nitrates and muscle function. Scientists estimated the intake of nitrates through diet using diet questionnaires to which study participants were periodically subjected. As for the health of the muscles, the researchers were able to evaluate it on the basis of tests performed during the study, such as agility and muscle strength tests.
A cup a day of leafy green vegetables
What emerged from the study is that those who ate the largest amount of leafy green vegetables, about one cup a day, also had greater muscle function. In particular, the leg muscles were 11% stronger and walking 4% faster than those who consumed less of these vegetables.
Better vegetables than supplements
Finally, a consideration by the authors of the study. Nitrates support muscle function with undoubted benefits for health and movement. However, it is good to take them through food, and therefore by regularly consuming leafy greens vegetables, and not as supplements since vegetables provide a wide range of substances, such as fibers, vitamins, antioxidants and mineral salts that work in synergy for our wellbeing.