In the journals
Eating plenty of vegetables can do more than boost your heart health — it also may improve leg strength, according to a study published online March 24, 2021, by The Journal of Nutrition.
Researchers gathered dietary information from 3,759 people (average age 48) periodically over 12 years, including the types and amounts of food they ate daily. The researchers focused on intake of foods high in nitrates, which are linked to better vascular and muscle function.
At the end of 12 years, the participants’ leg strength and walking speed were measured. Leg strength was evaluated by a knee extension test. Walking speed was determined by how fast people could rise from a chair, walk eight feet, and return to the seated position.
The researchers found that people who followed a high-nitrate diet — approximately 90 milligrams (mg) of nitrates daily, most of which came from green leafy vegetables — had greater leg muscle strength and faster walking speeds than those who ate half that amount.
The researchers speculate that nitrates help with muscle strength and power by improving blood flow and removing waste that causes soreness. The results also showed that lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale were the most beneficial. Many leafy greens contain about 75 mg of nitrates per cup.
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